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Note: This is a detailed, in-depth study. Click here for a briefer study regarding the Old Testament and the Sabbath today.
Modern Sabbath keepers distinguish parts of the old law. They say only the "ceremonial law" or "Law of Moses" was removed, not the "moral law" or "Law of God," the 10 Commands. The Sabbath was in the 10 Commands, so it is still binding.
What Scripture tells which should be observed today, but not others? Which are "ceremonial" (law of Moses) and which are "moral" (law of God)?
* Levitical priesthood
* Animal sacrifices
* Burning incense
* Feast days
* New moons
* Abstaining from (unclean) meat
* Instrumental music in worship
* Dancing in worship
* 7th-day Sabbath
All were in the old law, but most are not in the 10 Commands. Yet various Sabbath keepers observe several of them. Why not all of them? What evidence proves which should be kept but not others?
Some people try to use passages such as the following to claim we must obey all commands God has given: Psalms 111:7,8; 89:34; Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; 1 Chronicles 16:15.
But note some things God commanded or declared "holy," yet are not required of us today:
* Build an ark (Gen. 6:18,22; 7:5; 9:11-17) - A covenant (6:18) involving commands (6:22; 7:5) but not now in effect (9:11-17).
* Sacrifice a son (Gen. 22:1-19) - A command (22:2) tied to a covenant (22:16-19). Must we obey it?
* Circumcision (Gen. 17:9-14; Lev. 12:3; cf. 1 Cor. 7:18-20; Gal. 5:1-8; 6:12-16; Acts 15:1-29) - A command (21:4) and a covenant (vv 2-14) before and during Mosaic law (cf. Lev. 12:3), but not binding today (1 Cor. 7:18-20; Gal. 5:1-8; 6:12-16; Acts 15:1-29).
* Levitical priesthood (Ex. 40:12-16; 29:1-9; Num. 3:10; 18:1-7; 16:40; cf. Heb. 7:11-18; cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9) - A command (Ex. 40:12-16) under the covenant at Sinai (Ex. 29:1-9). Only Aaron and his descendants could be priests (Num. 3:10; 18:1-7; 16:40). Now Jesus is High Priest, not a descendant of Aaron but of a different order; so the law changed (Heb. 7:11-18; cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9).
* Animal sacrifices (Lev. 7:36-38; Gen. 4:1-5; Num. 15:1-6; Lev. chap. 1-7; cf. Heb. 10:1-18). - A command (Lev. 7:36-38) before and during the Mosaic covenant (Gen. 4:1-5; Num. 15:1-6; Lev. chap. 1-7). But they ceased (Heb. 10:1-18).
* Holy days (Ex. 12:14-18,24,28; 13:10; Lev. 23:2,4,7,8,21,24f,27-32,34-39; cf. Col. 2:14-17; Gal. 4:10,11). - Commanded (Ex. 12:14-18,24,28; 13:10) during (and from before) Mosaic covenant (Lev. chap. 23), to be kept holy including holy days of rest (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:2,4,7,8,21,24f,27-32,34-39), but not binding today (Col. 2:14-17; Gal. 4:10,11).
God (not man) changed these commands, including holy days of rest. When people cite passages saying we or others should keep God's commands, we ask: "Should they keep all the above commands?" Do modern Sabbath keepers observe them all? Did Old Testament characters keep the commands to be baptized, keep the Lord's Supper?
Galatians 3:15 uses human covenants (contracts, agreements) to illustrate the principle of covenants made between men and God. Hebrews 9:17 does likewise with man-made wills or testaments. This illustration becomes helpful in understanding our relationship to the covenant God made with Israel through Moses, including the Ten Commands and the Sabbath.
In every day life everyone understands the concept of contracts/covenants. We have contracts with various people to purchase products (house, car, computer software) and services (telephone, electricity, Internet), etc. A covenant includes conditions, terms, or requirements to be fulfilled by the parties who participate in it. In particular:
* Each contract is binding only on the parties named as participating in it. Other people may have similar contracts, but no one is bound by anyone else's contract. No one may attempt to bind on you the terms of a contract if you were not a party to that contract.
* Each contract is binding only as long as the terms of the contract remain in effect. The contract may stipulate that it will expire at a certain time or under certain conditions (lease a car for 5 years, a testament is no longer binding if the maker issues a subsequent will, etc.). When the terms of a contract have been fulfilled, the contract expires and is no longer binding on anyone, not even the people who were originally bound by it.
* A new contract/covenant or testament may replace or succeed a previous covenant/testament. If so, the parties involved are bound by the terms of the new contract, not by the terms of the old one. For example, if a man makes a new will, it replaces the previous will entirely. The new contract may have some conditions that are similar or even identical to terms in the previous contract, and it may have some terms that differ. Nevertheless, no terms of the previous contract as such are still binding on the parties- not even if the terms existed in several previous contracts. The only binding terms are those that exist in the current contract.
Earlier in this introduction we listed some laws or covenants that are not binding on us today. The principles we have just discussed explain why these are not binding. We intend to show that the covenant God made with Israel through Moses is not binding on anyone today just like all these previously discussed laws and covenants are no longer binding. This will apply to all the laws and terms of that covenant, including the Ten Commands and the Sabbath.
We now live under an entirely different covenant that replaced the one made through Moses. None of the laws revealed through Moses - nor any laws revealed before Moses - apply today. All such laws, terms, and conditions have been replaced by the gospel of Jesus Christ. As in the illustration, the gospel may include laws that are similar or even identical to some that went before, but none of those laws are in effect because they were included in any previous covenant. The only laws or conditions that are required of us today are the ones that are included in the New Testament.
Please consider our evidence from the word of God.
God has the right to apply laws to only certain people and to cause those laws to cease to be binding (see introductory examples). Consider evidence this is true of the 10 Commands, including the Sabbath. Note that all arguments expressly apply to 10 Commands, including Sabbath, not just other parts of the law.
God gave some commands to certain specific people, not to all people everywhere. Examples: Noah's ark, Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, circumcision to Abraham's descendants. Applying these commands to others does not show faithfulness to God but perverts His will! [Cf. Rom. 3:19.]
The 10 Commands, including the Sabbath, were written on two tablets of stone and placed in the ark of the covenant (Ex. 34:1,27,28; 31:18; 32:15,16; Deut. 4:13; 5:1,2ff,22; 9:9-11; 10:1-5; 1 Kings 8:9). Consider evidence that the covenant given at Sinai included the 10 Commands and the Sabbath. We will later show that this covenant was removed.
Ex. 34:27,28 - God made a covenant with Israel on Sinai. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the 10 Commandments.
Deut. 4:13 - He declared His covenant that is the 10 Commandments on tables of stone
Deut. 5:2,22 - God made a covenant with us in Horeb (then quotes the 10 Commands). He added no more and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.
Deut. 9:9,11 - On the mountain Moses received the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. The Lord gave him the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.
2 Chron. 6:11 - In the ark is the covenant that the Lord made with Israel.
Sabbath would be included in 10 Commands as above.
Ex. 31:16 - Children of Israel observe the Sabbath as a perpetual covenant.
So the two tablets, including the 10 Commands and the Sabbath were placed in the ark, and were a fundamental part of the covenant at Sinai.
Some claim the 10 Commands on the two tablets were not part of the law that God removed because they were placed in the ark, but the rest of the law was the Book of the Covenant placed beside the ark (Deut. 31:24-26). Note evidence that the 10 Commands were included in both:
The Lord told Israel, keep my covenant and you will be my special people. All the people answered: All that the lord has spoken we will do (v8).
20:1-17 - The 10 Commands stated
Chap. 21-23- Other laws stated, including the Sabbath (23:12)
V3 - Moses told the people all the words of the Lord. The people said: All the words of the Lord we will do.
V4 - Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.
V7 - He read the Book of the Covenant, and all the people said: All that the Lord has said we will do.
V8 - Moses sprinkled blood on the people and called it "the blood of the covenant which the Lord made with you according to all these words."
Nehemiah 8:1,8,18 - The "book of the law" is called "the book of the law of Moses" (v1) and "the law" (v2) and "the book of the law of God" (vv 8,18). Sabbatarians generally agree that the "law of God" includes the Ten Commands. If so, note that "the law of God" was in "the book" that was read (v8) which was the "book of the law of Moses" (v1). So the Ten Commands are included in the "book of the law" or "the book of the law of Moses." So all these terms refer to the same law, not separate laws.
Hebrews 9:18,19 adds that the first covenant was dedicated with blood. When Moses had spoken "every precept" ("command" - NKJV footnote) to the people according to the law, then he sprinkled blood on the book, etc. So the book contained all the commands of the law.
So the covenant included all the words God spoke, including the 10 Commands and the Sabbath. All was written in the Book of the Covenant, and the people agreed to keep it all.
The New Testament uses the expression "the law and the prophets" to summarize the whole of the Scriptures given before Jesus came (the law would be the writings of Moses and the prophets the writings of other prophets). Examples include:
Matthew 5:17 - Jesus did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (see Luke 24:44 below and notes on Matthew 5:17-19 under Part I #9).
Matthew 7:12 - Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 22:40 - On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (So all the teaching of the Old Testament rests on love fore God and for others, because proper love leads to obedience to all God's commands. Sabbatarians agree this includes the Ten Commands.)
Luke 16:16 - The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached... (So all the inspired writings that came before John the Baptist are summarized in the term "the law and the prophets." That would include the Ten Commands.)
Luke 24:44 - Jesus said that "all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." (He fulfilled every Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah. Note that Moses writings are here called "the Law of Moses," but that includes everything Moses revealed from God, including the Ten Commands.)
John 1:45 - Again Philip said, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote-Jesus of Nazareth" (Note: What Moses wrote is the law, and the rest of the Old Testament is the prophets.)
Acts 13:15 - Jews in the synagogue read from the Law and the Prophets.
Acts 24:14 - Paul confessed that He worshiped God according to "the Way" which they called a sect (which is the gospel way), yet he still believed all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. (So, he still believed everything in the Old Testament to be true.)
Acts 28:23 - When the Jews came to Paul he testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. (As in verses above, Jesus fulfilled prophecies throughout the Old Testament.)
Rom 3:21 - The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel apart from the law, but is witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. (Salvation by the gospel was prophesied in the Old Testament, so the law and the prophets become evidence why we should accept the gospel.)
So any passage that refers to "the law and the prophets" is referring to the entirety of Old Testament writings. This would include specifically Moses' writings, which include the Ten Commands and the Sabbath. So the Ten Commands and the Sabbath are part of "the law and the prophets."
Ex. 19:1-6 - The children of Israel had gone out of Egypt. God said tell the children of Israel, if they keep His covenant, they would be special to God above all people (other people are not addressed). Speak to the children of Israel.
Ex. 20:2,22 - God brought you out of the land of Egypt. You shall have no other gods, etc. - the 10 Commands (vv 3-17). Say to the children of Israel.
Ex. 34:27,28 - The Lord made a covenant with Israel and wrote on tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
Deut. 4:1,7-13,44,45 - Israel, listen to the statutes I teach you to observe. Possess the land the Lord gives you. What great nation has such statutes? God commanded you to perform the Ten Commands and wrote them on two tablets. This is the law Moses set before the children of Israel, the statutes Moses spoke to the children of Israel after they came out of Egypt.
Deut. 5:1,6 - Moses called all Israel and said, Hear O Israel, the statues and learn to observe them. The Lord made a covenant with us in Horeb. God brought you out of the land of Egypt. (Then follows the 10 Commands.)
1 Kings 8:9,21 - In the ark were the two tablets of stone Moses put there at Horeb when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.
2 Chron. 6:11 - In the ark was the covenant God made with Israel.
Eph. 2:11,12 - Gentiles in the flesh were strangers from the covenants of promise.
The Ten Commands (including the Sabbath) were given to a specific nation, Israel, whom God brought out of Egypt. No other nation had such a great law. (Note that "strangers" of other nations who lived in Israelite territory were included - Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14.)
[Cf. Deut. 6:4,10; 9:1,10; Rom. 9:4,5; 2:14; 1 Cor. 9:20,21]
The Sabbath was included in the 10 Commands given to Israel.
Deut. 5:15 - Israel (v1) was a slave in the land of Egypt but God brought them out. Therefore, God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Ex. 31:13,16,17 - The children of Israel should keep God's Sabbath for it was a sign between God and Israel. The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath. It is a sign between God and the children of Israel.
Ezek. 20:10-12 - God brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness, gave them His statutes, and gave them His Sabbaths as a sign between them and God.
The Sabbath was given to Israel, the nation that God brought out of Egypt, as a sign between Him and them. Does that apply to Gentiles? People in other nations?
[Cf. Hos. 1:10; 2:11]
* Gen. 17:10,11; Rom. 4:11 -Circumcision was a sign between God and the descendants of Abraham.
* Ex. 13:7-10 - Feast of unleavened bread was a sign that God brought them out of Egypt.
* Ex. 31:13,16,17; Ezek. 20:10-12 - The Sabbath was a sign between God and Israel that God brought them out of Egypt (Deut. 5:15).
How can the Sabbath be a sign between God and Israel if people of all nations must keep it? Did God bring us out of Egypt? Must we also keep the sign of circumcision and unleavened bread? Would a wedding ring be a sign between a man and his wife if he gave the same sign to all other women?
People in general need not keep the Ten Commands and the Sabbath for the same reason we need not build arks like Noah or sacrifice sons like Abraham. God did not address these commands to us. To apply them to others perverts the commands.
God gave the following laws to Israel (not others) "throughout their generations":
* Circumcision - Gen. 17:9,10
* Holy feast days - Ex. 12:14; Lev. 23:21,31,41 (Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Booths)
* Animal sacrifices - Ex. 29:42; 30:10
* Burning incense - Ex. 30:8
* Holy anointing oil - Ex. 30:31
* Levitical priests in the tabernacle - Ex. 40:15; Num. 18:23
* Tassels on garments - Num. 15:38
* Sabbath observance -Ex. 31: 13-17
[Cf. Ex. 30:21; Lev. 7:36; Num. 10:8; 35:29]
All these practices would endure for the same length of time - throughout Israel's generations. Do Sabbath-keepers keep them all? If any of them have ceased, then they must have all ceased. But we have proved many of them are no longer binding; so they must have all ceased, including the Sabbath.
So "throughout Israel's generations" meant as long as God's special covenant with Israel continued. When Israel's role as God's special nation ended, then all these practices would cease. They ceased when Jesus died on the cross and the gospel came into effect. There is no more Jew or Gentile in God's plan (Gal. 3:28). [Eph. 2:11-18; Acts 10:34,35; 15:7-11; Rom. 10:12; Col. 3:11]
The Sabbath cannot successfully be distinguished from other parts of the old law. Like other laws which all agree have ceased, the Sabbath lasted only "throughout Israel's generations."
Hebrews 7:11-14,18 - The law allowed priests only of the tribe of Levi (see introduction). But it predicted Christ would be a priest, though of the tribe of Judah (Psalm 110:4). This required that the law be changed (v12) and annulled (v18). The law itself required this.
Hebrews 8:6-13 - Jer. 31:31-34 predicted God would make a new covenant different from the one He made with Israel when He led them out of Egypt. When Christ established this new covenant (v6), the first was obsolete and vanished away (v13). This did not contradict the Old Testament, but fulfilled it.
Hebrews 10:1-18 - Animal sacrifices under the first covenant could not completely take away sin (v4). Jesus died as the sacrifice of the new covenant to completely forgive sin (vv 12,17). So Christ took away the first will and established the second (vv 9,10). This did not contradict God's will but harmonized with it (vv 7,9).
This is how the law was weak and unprofitable - it told men they were sinners but could not permanently forgive them (7:11,18; 8:6,7). The law was not a mistake. It had a purpose, but a temporary one. When the new law came, the old had fulfilled its purpose. It was removed because it was no longer needed.
Jesus removed the covenant God made with Israel when He led them out of Egypt (8:9; 10:9,10). This was one covenant - the "first covenant" (8:7,13; 9:1,15,18; 10:9) - not two covenants, one removed and the other remaining. (Jesus removed the old covenant itself, not just condemnation nor man-made traditions.)
But what did this first covenant include? We already proved that first covenant included the 10 Commands and Sabbath (see point 1). Hebrews directly confirms this:
Hebrews 9:18-20 - The first covenant was dedicated by blood and included every precept ("command" - NKJV footnote) spoken by Moses. Ex. 24:3-8 showed this included all the words the Lord spoke (vv 3,4,7), including the Ten Commands spoken by God in Ex. 20:3-17.
Hebrews 9:1-4 - This covenant that was removed included the tables of the covenant which were inside the ark of the covenant. But the tables refer to the Ten Commands, including the Sabbath - Ex. 34:27,28; Deut. 4:13; 5:2,22; 9:9,11.
So Jesus removed the first covenant, including the tables of the covenant - the 10 Commands and the Sabbath. All this was according to the will of God.
Again, the Old Testament (v14) is contrasted to the new covenant (v6). The old was a ministration of death, because it proved men deserved death. Yet it came with glory. The new covenant is a ministration of righteousness and is more glorious (v9).
V11 - That which was glorious (the old covenant - v7) was passing away, so that which has more glory (the new covenant) may remain. What was done away was, not just the glory (v7), but that which was glorious (v11) - the Old Testament itself.
We already showed that the old covenant included the 10 Commands and the Sabbath. But the context confirms this.
That which passed away was written and engraved on stones (v7). But that was the Ten Commands (see on Hebrews 8-10).
Further, it was the law which, when Moses delivered it, his face shone so he had to wear a veil (vv 7,13). But Ex. 34:27-35 shows this happened when he delivered the Ten Commands. So the old covenant that passed away included the Ten Commands and the Sabbath.
4:21 - Paul spoke to those who desired to be under the law. So "under" law here means subject to it or under obligation to obey it, not under condemnation (see 4:4). (Cf. 1 Cor. 9:20,21; Matt. 8:9; Rom. 3:19.) He contrasts being under the law to salvation by faith in Christ under the gospel (1:11,12; 3:26-28).
3:24,25; 5:18 - The law was a tutor to bring us to Christ. But now that faith in Christ has come, we are no longer under the tutor. I.e., we are not under the law (5:18). We are freed, not just from condemnation, but from the law itself, which was the tutor.
5:1-6 - So those who seek to be under the old law (4:21) are entangled in a yoke of bondage (v1), Christ profits them nothing (v2), and they are estranged from Christ (v4). They are fallen from grace (v4). [Attempting to be justified by law - 5:4 - was already defined as seeking to be under the law - 4:21.]
3:16,17 - It is the law given 430 years after the promise to Abraham. Ex. 12:41 shows this refers to when Israel left Egypt. Hence, this is the covenant - one covenant - given at Mt. Sinai (Gal. 4:24), which we have seen includes the Ten Commands.
3:10 - The law refers to "all things written in the book of the Law." But Hebrews 9:18-20 and Ex. 24:3-8 show that this included the Ten Commands.
5:3 - If we obey part of the law, we are debtors to keep the whole law. The law is a whole. You cannot divide it into parts and then take part and leave part. You must take it all or none. If we seek to be under any of it as law, we fall from grace (5:2,3,4).
Galatians 3:19 - The law was added till the seed should come. That seed was Christ (3:16). When He came and fulfilled the law (including hanging on the tree for us - 3:13,14), then the law ceased.
Why does Paul focus mainly on circumcision? Because it was the initiation sign of the covenant (Genesis 17). Paul's point is that binding circumcision requires people to keep the whole law. But it follows that, if no one is now obligated to keep the fundamental sign of the covenant, then we are free from all of the covenant (5:1-6). Cf. Acts 15.
The law resulted in a curse, because it showed men were sinners but could not remove the guilt (3:10; 2:16).
Again Paul contrasts the gospel to the Old Testament. The law showed men were guilty of sin (3:20,23). But God did not want all men lost, so He offered the gospel (1:16).
7:2,3 - Illustration: a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives, so if she marries another man she is an adulteress. She can remarry only if her husband has died.
7:4-6 - Likewise, we are dead to the law and delivered from it (discharged - ASV; released - NASB), just like the woman was released from the law of the dead husband (v2). We are delivered from the law itself, not just from condemnation or traditions about the law.
When the husband dies, the woman can be joined to a different man; so we are now joined to Christ. We are not subject to both the Old Testament and the law of Christ. We have a different law, just like the woman has "another man." Following both laws at once would be spiritual adultery, like the woman having two husbands at once!
So we are "not under the law" - 6:14.
7:7 - It is "the law" that commanded, "You shall not covet" (v7). But this is the Ten Commands. So, the law that was removed includes the Ten Commands and therefore the Sabbath.
[Other verses show that the "law" discussed in Romans includes the 10 Commands: 2:17-23; 3:21 - Law and the Prophets. When Sabbatarians use 7:7,12 to argue that the 10 Commands that are holy, just, and good, they acknowledge that "the law" in 7:4-6 includes the 10 Commands.]
The law was not sin but "holy, just, and good (vv 7,12) when viewed from the purpose for which God gave it: to reveal sin, regulate sin, and lead people to realize their need for Christ. But the law was deficient in that it could not completely remove sin, when compared to the New Testament (Heb. 10:1-18).
Formerly, Gentiles had been separated from the covenant relationship with God that Israelites had enjoyed. By His death, Jesus made peace between Jew and Gentile.
To do this, Jesus had to abolish the law of commandments, which was a "middle wall of division" and a source of "enmity" between Jew and Gentile. That law had been given only to the Jews. As long as the law continued in effect, it created enmity between Jew and Gentile by demonstrating a fundamental distinction in their relationship to God. The only way for God to grant favor to men of every nation and make peace between Jew and Gentile would be to remove that law (cf. Gal. 3:28; Acts 10:34,35; Matt. 28:19; etc.).
If we try to bind the Old Testament today, we re-establish enmity and build again the wall of partition that Jesus died to destroy. We attempt to defeat the death of Christ!
The law that Jesus abolished was the one that constituted a wall of division and source of enmity between Jew and Gentile. That included the Ten Commandment and the Sabbath, because God gave them to the Jews as part of their special covenant status. Specifically, the Sabbath was a sign of God's special relation with Israel (Ex. 31:13-17).
Had Jesus left the Ten Commands or the Sabbath in effect, He would have left a barrier between Jew and Gentile. To make peace between Jew and Gentile and to offer eternal life on an equal basis to all, God had to remove the whole law, including the Sabbath and the Ten Commands.
The law Jesus removed was the law contained in "ordinances" (Eph. 2:15 - or the "handwriting of ordinances" - Col. 2:14). Some claim the 10 Commands and the Sabbath were not "ordinances," so Jesus did not remove them.
We have repeatedly shown that the law God removed did include the Ten Commands and the Sabbath. But note the word "ordinance."
2 Kings 17:37 - God wrote "ordinances," along with statutes and commandment. But He wrote on the tables of stone: the Ten Commands, including the Sabbath.
Deuteronomy 4:1,5,8,14,45; 5:1 - God gave "judgments" ("ordinances" - ASV) to Israel. These included the Ten Commands in 5:1ff. V8 refers to "all this law" as "statutes and judgments" or "ordinances."
Exodus 24:3,4 - Moses spoke "all the words of the Lord," including the "judgments." These constituted the covenant (vv 7,8) that the people agreed to keep. But we proved that covenant included the Ten Commands and the Sabbath (20:1ff; 21:1; 23:12).
Acts 16:4 - The word for "ordinance" in Eph. 2:15 and Col. 2:14 (Greek dogma) is also used in Acts 16:4 to refer to moral precepts ("decrees") listed in 15:28,29 which are repeated from the Old Testament in the gospel. So "ordinances" include moral decrees, which is what Sabbath-keepers claim the Ten Commands and Sabbath were.
The attempt to claim "ordinances" were removed, but other laws or commands were not removed, is based on an artificial distinction without Scriptural basis. The "law of commandments contained in ordinances" that Jesus removed included the Ten Commands and the Sabbath.
[The Heb. word for "ordinance" is MISHPAT. It is always translated "ordinance" in the ASV. The KJV translates it "ordinance" or "judgment."]
This context is many ways parallel to Ephesians 2.
Paul tells uncircumcised Gentiles (v13) not to allow people to condemn them for not keeping the Old Law (v16). The reason is that Christ wiped out the handwriting of requirements (ordinances) and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.
(Again, the law was "against" men in that it showed they were guilty of sin but could not forgive them.)
Note 2:16 - The law that was removed specifically included the laws regarding foods, holy days, and the Sabbaths (which was one of the Ten Commands).
Since the word for "Sabbath" here is plural, some claim it refers to days of rest associated with annual feast days, not the seventh-day Sabbath. However:* "Sabbaths" is often plural in the original yet clearly refers to the seventh day:
Exodus 31:13 - My Sabbaths you shall keep (the seventh day - vv 15,17).
Matthew 28:1 - Now after the Sabbath [plural with no article just as in Col. 2:16]*.
Luke 4:16 - Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day [plural with an article].
Acts 13:14 - They went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day [plural with an article]
Acts 16:13 - On the Sabbath day men went to a place of prayer [plural with an article].
See other Old Testament examples below referring to holy days, new moons, and Sabbaths.
[See also Mark 1:21; 3:2,4; 16:1; Luke 4:31; 6:2,9.]
[Note that all above cases are plural; some have a definite article and one does not.]* Some passages use the plural and singular forms interchangeably, all referring to the seventh day.
Matthew 12:1-14 - "Sabbath" is used as follows: v1 - plural with article, v2 - singular no article, v5a - plural with article, v5b - singular with article, v8 - singular with article, v10 - plural with article, v11 - plural with article, v12 - plural with article. Five times the word is plural and three times singular, but all refer to the seventh-day Sabbath!
Luke 13:10-17 - "Sabbath" here is: v10 - plural with article, v14a- singular with article, v14b- singular with article, v15 - singular with article, v16- singular with article.* In the Ten Commands in Ex. 20:8 and Deut. 5:12, the plural is used in the Greek Septuagint, identically to Col. 2:16. Altogether, the New Testament uses the word "Sabbath" (singular and/or plural) about 60 times. Not one instance can be shown to exclude the weekly Sabbath.
So what proof is there that "Sabbaths" does not include the seventh day in Colossians 2:16?In fact, Col. 2:16 lists the Sabbath separately from the new moons and the feast days purposely to specify the seventh day in addition to the feast days.
This is exactly the same as is done in Old Testament verses. Examples are:
1 Chronicles 23:31 - on the Sabbaths and on the New Moons and on the set feasts
2 Chronicles 2:4 - on the Sabbaths, on the New Moons, and on the set feasts
2 Chronicles 8:13 - the Sabbaths, the New Moons, and the ... yearly feasts
2 Chronicles 31:3 - the Sabbaths and the New Moons and the set feasts, as it is written in the Law of the Lord.
Nehemiah 10:33 - the Sabbaths, the New Moons, and the set feasts
Ezekiel 45:17 - the feasts, the New Moons, the Sabbaths
Colossians 2:16 - So let no one judge you ... regarding a festival [feast day - ASV] or a new moon or sabbaths.
[See also Lev. 23; Num. 28,29; Ezek 46:4-9; Hos. 2:11.]
Each case above follows a similar formula to identify the weekly, monthly, and annual holy days. They are all listed and distinguished from one another. Since the verses also list the annual holy days, the "Sabbaths" must refer to the seventh day in all the cases.
Further, "Sabbaths" is plural in all the Old Testament cases as in Col. 2:16! The use of the plural does not prove "Sabbaths" refers to annual holy days. Rather, it proves the reference is to the seventh day, just as was repeatedly done in the Old Testament!
Col. 2:14-16 specifies that the seventh-day Sabbath has been wiped out, taken out of the way, and nailed to the cross. We are not expected to keep it any more than dietary laws or holy days.
[Note: If some claim that "Sabbath" here has no definite article, note that Matthew 28:1 is plural with no article just like Colossians 2:16. And all the following examples also are without the definite article (singular number) yet refer to the seventh day Sabbath: Matthew 12:2; 24:20; Mark 6:2; Luke 6:1,6; 14:1; John 5:9,10,16; 7:22,23a,23b; 9:14.]
[If some claim that the word "ordinances" ("requirements" - NKJV) in v14 proves the reference is not to the Sabbath or Ten Commands, see notes on Ephesians 2 above.]
Some say Jesus did not come to destroy the law, and it would stand till heaven and earth pass away, so the old law is still binding. (Some add to this that Jesus magnified the law and made it honorable - Isaiah 42:21.)
But not one jot or tittle would pass away till all was fulfilled. If the law is still in effect, then the whole law still stands (animal sacrifices, circumcision, etc.). This includes both the law and prophets (v17), even the least commandments (v19). Remember that "the law and the prophets" is a standard expression referring to the whole Old Testament (see Part I, #1 above). Either all has been removed, or none has been removed.
Yet we earlier proved that many Old Testament laws were removed. If so, this passage cannot mean the Ten Commands and Sabbath are still in effect. If any of the law is not in effect, it must be because "all" has been fulfilled, so none is in effect.
Luke 16:17 explains that "till heaven and earth pass away" means "it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away." Hence, it would be easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the law to pass away "till all be fulfilled" (v18). But Jesus came to fulfill it! So the passage actually teaches that all the law passed away when Jesus fulfilled it."Pass (away)" means to lose force or become invalid.
Compare Matt. 24:34 - This generation would not "pass away" till all things Jesus prophesied would be fulfilled. When all had been fulfilled, the generation could pass away. So Matthew 5:17,18 means the law could pass away when Jesus had fulfilled it.
In Matthew 5:18, what it means for heaven and earth to "pass away" is what it means for the law to "pass away" (identical words in Greek). When all is fulfilled, the law could "pass away."
"Pass away in the sense of lose force, become invalid ... Matthew 5:18b" - Arndt & Gingrich (on Gr. parercomai).But Jesus did fulfill all.
Matthew 5:17 - The law could not pass away till He fulfilled all, but He came to fulfill it.
Luke 24:44-47 - All things must be fulfilled that were written in the law and the prophets concerning Jesus. [John 1:45; Acts 24:14]
Acts 13:29 - All that was written concerning Him was fulfilled.
The law could not pass away till all was fulfilled. We have proved that some passed away, so all must have been fulfilled. So every jot and tittle could pass away, including the Sabbath.A contract can become void illegally by destroying it or legally by fulfilling it.
If you hire me to build a house for a fee, it would be illegal to destroy the contract. But if we fulfill the contract (I build the house and you pay me), it would no longer be binding.
Genesis 6:18,22; 7:5 - God made a covenant to spare Noah if he built the ark. Noah fulfilled the covenant, so it is no longer in effect.
Genesis 17:9-14; 21:1-4; Leviticus 12:3 - Circumcision was a covenant between God and Abraham's descendants. The covenant is no longer in effect (1 Corinthians 7:18-20; Galatians 5:6; 6:15). Did God "destroy" the covenant? No, but He did remove it.
Matthew 5:17,18 - So God made a covenant with Israel at Sinai, including the Ten Commands and Sabbath and the whole law. Jesus did not come to destroy the law (remove it illegally contrary to its provisions). But He did come to fulfill it and replace it, in harmony with the provisions and intent of the law itself. He did fulfill it, so it passed away!
Jesus fulfilled the law so that it passed away. What did this include? It included "every jot and tittle" of "the law and the prophets." That includes the Ten Commands and the Sabbath.
If the Ten Commands and Sabbath have not been removed, then none of the law was removed, so we must still keep it all. If He fulfilled the "ceremonial law" and removed it, then He also removed the Ten Commands and the Sabbath. What Jesus did to the law, He did to the whole law: every jot and tittle.
If the Sabbath is still binding today, why does no New Testament passage directly command us to observe it? Sabbath keepers offer evidence it is still in effect but must admit the New Testament nowhere commands it as the Old Testament did. Why not?
This was taught, not just indirectly, but by direct commands and direct statements.
Exodus 20:8 -10 - Remember the Sabbath ... keep it holy ... you shall do no work
Deuteronomy 5:1,12-15 - ... be careful to observe them (v1) ... observe the Sabbath day ... keep it holy (v12) ... you shall not do any work (14) ... the Lord you God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (v15)
Exodus 31:13-16 - Surely my Sabbaths you shall keep (v13) ... You shall keep the Sabbath (v14) ... keep the Sabbath ... observe the Sabbath (v16)
Exodus 34:21 - Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest
Exodus 35:1-3 - ...words which the Lord has commanded you to do ... whoever does any work on [the Sabbath] shall be put to death ... you shall kindle no fire on the Sabbath day
Leviticus 19:3 - Every one of you shall ... keep My Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:30 - You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the Lord.
Leviticus 23:3 -You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord
Leviticus 26:2 - You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the LORD.
Jeremiah 17:19-22 - Don't work on the Sabbath, as God commanded your fathers.
Where does even one such command or direct statement tell anyone to keep the Sabbath today? If is still binding, why are there no such direct commands in the New Testament?
[Exodus 16:23-28; 23:12]
There were specific blessings for observing it and punishments for disobeying.
Exodus 31:14,15 - Everyone who profanes it shall be surely put to death. Whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death.
Exodus 35:2 - Whoever does any work on [the Sabbath] shall be put to death.
Numbers 15:32-36 - God commanded one who picked up sticks on the Sabbath "must surely be put to death." All the congregation must stone him with stones.
Isaiah 56:2 - Blessed is the man who ... keeps from defiling the Sabbath. [Cf. vv 4,6]
This law was no light matter. Violation was a capital crime! It was a matter of life or death.
What New Testament passage states any blessings or consequences regarding Sabbath observance? If it is still binding, why are there no such statements in the New Testament?
Jews fought against accepting that fact the Old Law was no longer binding. Few other specific controversies, if any, are discussed to the length this one was.
This issue is the major theme of Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews - three entire books.
It is also discussed in Acts 15, Ephesians 2, Colossians 2, 2 Corinthians 3 (see above).
Many Scriptures repeatedly teach that the Old Law in general is no longer in effect.
Surely in all this discussion of the law, with so much emphasis on the fact it is no longer binding, we should be clearly told if the Sabbath law, important as it was under the law, should be included as part of our service to God today. If the Sabbath command was repeated as part of the New Testament, what passage says so? Why is it nowhere clearly stated?
Sabbath keepers claim the Sabbath law is still in effect and binding on everyone. Yet they themselves do not keep the law, as God gave it.
Sabbatarians often claim that those who do not keep the Sabbath have changed God's law. They often blame the change on Catholicism. But consider what keeping the Sabbath according to the law really required. Do Sabbatarians keep the Sabbath as God ordained? If not, then who really changed the Sabbath?
Exodus 35:3 - You shall kindle no fire through your habitations on the Sabbath day.
Exodus 16:23 - Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest ... Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil ...
Numbers 15:32-36 - God commanded one who picked up sticks on the Sabbath "must surely be put to death."
Exodus 16:29 - Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
Numbers 28:9,10 - The burnt offering for every Sabbath day was two lambs, etc.
2 Chronicles 24:2 - The burnt offerings on the Sabbaths are an ordinance forever.
[Neh. 10:33; 2 Chron. 8:12,13; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17]
Exodus 20:10 - ... you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, ... nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates
Deuteronomy 5:14 - In it you shall do no work: you, ... nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you
Exodus 23:12 - ... your ox and your donkey may rest
It follows that the Sabbath law would forbid hiring others to do work on the Sabbath.
Nehemiah 10:31 - If people bring wares or grain to sell, do not buy it on the Sabbath.
Leviticus 24:8 - Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually ... by an everlasting covenant.
Deuteronomy 5:14,15 - The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall ... remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Exodus 31:14,15 - Everyone who profanes it shall be surely put to death. Whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death.
Exodus 35:2 - Whoever does any work on [the Sabbath] shall be put to death.
Numbers 15:32-36 - God commanded one who picked up sticks on the Sabbath "must surely be put to death." All the congregation must stone him with stones.
Galatians 6:13 - Paul said, "For not even those who are circumcised keep the law..." So those who tried to bind circumcision on others did not keep the law themselves. This is inconsistent. They should not criticize others for not obeying the law when they themselves do not really keep it. [Cf. 2:14]
The same principle applies to those who claim to keep the Sabbath. Either they must obey all God says about it or else they have no right to criticize others for not keeping it. How can they truly claim to keep the Sabbath law if they don't keep it the way God gave it? How can they honestly criticize others for having changed the law when they themselves do not keep it the way God gave it?
They may claim that some requirements of the Sabbath law were part of the "ceremonial law" and were done away. Yet they often use some of these very passages, especially Exodus 16; 31:13-16, as part of their argument that the Sabbath is for today. If they use the passages, they must think they do apply. They can't have it both ways.If the Sabbath law changed, how do we know what to keep or not keep?
How do we know what work is or is not forbidden? How do we know what penalty exists?
The fact is that, until Sabbath keepers keep the law as God gave it, they have no grounds to criticize others for not keeping it.
They say:"The Sabbath is still in effect, because it is one of the 10 Commands."
But the Sabbath in the 10 Commands requires remembering that you were slaves in Egypt and God led you out. That's why He commanded them to keep the Sabbath. Do you remember this? Can you remember it?"Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever."
If that means His laws don't change, then all the above requirements of the Sabbath must still be in effect. None of them have changed."The Sabbath is still binding, because it was perpetual or everlasting."
But the perpetual command said those who violated it must be killed - Exodus 31:14-16 (note "therefore").
And the showbread was to set out every Sabbath as an everlasting covenant (Leviticus 24:8).
And sacrifices were to be offered on the Sabbath as an ordinance forever (2 Chronicles 2:4)."The Sabbath was not done away, since it was kept before Sinai."
But the part given before Sinai required no cooking but staying home - Exodus 16:23,29."The Catholic church changed the Sabbath."
But they themselves do not keep the Sabbath as God gave it. Is Catholicism responsible for that?
The Bible evidence regarding the Sabbath may be summarized as follows:
1) No people were ever commanded or instructed to observe the Sabbath day except the nation of Israel (including strangers living in their land and Gentile proselytes who chose to practice Judaism).
2) No people were ever commanded or instructed to observe the Sabbath day before Moses gave instructions to Israel about the Sabbath, nor were any people ever commanded or instructed to observe the Sabbath after Jesus' death and resurrection.
The Sabbath command was given only to Israel (as above) and was in effect only from the time of Moses' teaching till the time Jesus died on the cross.
Verses previously studied prove the whole law was removed, including the 10 Commands. We have learned that the Old Covenant has ceased to be binding. That would include all Old Testament practices unless it can be shown by the Scriptures that God intended for certain laws to continue. It is improper to just assume without proof that certain laws are still in effect and others are not.
Consider some rules people sometimes suggest for making such distinctions:
Some say God spoke the Ten Commands (including the Sabbath), so these are the "Law of God," "Moral law" (or "spiritual law"); this is still binding. But Moses spoke other Old Testament commands, so these are the "Law of Moses," "Ceremonial law," and these are what was removed.
How do we know that only the law of Moses or ceremonial law was done away, but not the law of God, etc.? What Scripture tells us which laws are included in the "law of God," so they remain in effect, and which laws are "ceremonial," so they were removed? (Note that the terms "moral law" and "ceremonial law" are nowhere mentioned in the Bible.)
The Sabbath, for example, was one of the Ten Commands, so some claim it is "moral" and the "Law of God," so it continues today. But it is also listed in other parts of the Old Testament besides the Ten Commands and in contexts with laws that have been done away (Ex. 31:13ff; Lev. 19:3&30). In Leviticus 23:1-44 the Sabbath is listed right along with other feast days that are no longer in effect, so why doesn't this prove the Sabbath was "ceremonial," so it was done away? Wherein is the Sabbath any less "ceremonial" than these other feasts, many of which included sabbath rests?
Further, those who seek to practice the Sabbath as "moral law" and the "Law of God", usually also practice tithing, instrumental music, and even dietary laws. But these are not in the Ten Commands, nor is their nature any more "moral" than other "ceremonial" laws which have been done away. So, these folks violate their own distinction and apparently just "pick and choose" which laws to bind.
The Bible shows that the law of God and the law of Moses are just different terms for the same law, and the law of God included things that have clearly been done away. For example:
Nehemiah 8:1,8,14 - Here the same "book of the law" is called the book of the law of Moses (v1) and the book of the law of God (vv 8,18). God commanded it by Moses (v14), so both terms refer to the same law.
Luke 2:21-24,39 - The same law is called the law of Moses (v22) and the law of the Lord (vv 23,24,39). And this law was a purification rite, including animal sacrifices, which was clearly done away (cf. Lev. 12:2-8). So, the law of the Lord is the same as the Law of Moses, and it contains things that were done away.
(Other similar passages are Ezra 7:6,12; and 2 Chron. 34:14,15,21,31; 35:12.)
Luke 24:44 Jesus said that "all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." He fulfilled every Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah. Note that Moses writings are here called "the Law of Moses," but that includes everything Moses revealed from God, including the Ten Commands.
2 Chronicles 31:2-4 - The law of God included animal sacrifices, new moons, and feast days.
Deuteronomy 5:1ff; Mark 7:10 - Moses spoke the Ten Commands.
Exodus 25:1ff; 30:11,17,22; 40:1; 35:4; Leviticus 1:1; 4:1,2,13; 6:1,8; 7:22,36; 8:1,5; 9:6; 10:8,15; 11:1; 12:1; 13:1; 16:1; 17:1,2; 22:31; etc. - God spoke other Old Testament commands.
There is no distinction between the law of God and the law of Moses. It was God's law because He originated it, but it was the law of Moses because it was revealed through him (Neh. 10:29). This is true also of the Ten Commands and the Sabbath (Deut. 5:1ff; John 7:18,19; Ex. 24:3-8; 35:1-3; 16:22-30; 31:12-17; Neh. 9:14; cf. Mk. 7:10 to Matt. 15:4).
Likewise, the Bible nowhere distinguishes moral law that continues from ceremonial law that ended. This whole distinction is a man-made rule having no sanction from God (Matt. 15:9; Gal. 1:8,9; 2 John 9-11).
Some distinguish the two tablets placed in the ark from the Book of the Covenant (or Book of the Law) placed beside the ark (Deut. 31:24-26). But the 10 Commands were included in both!
See Part I #1 above.
Some say that the laws Jesus abolished were the ones originally taught by Moses, but laws given before Moses continue (including the Sabbath, which was given at creation - Gen. 2:2,3).
This argument is simply assumed, never proved. What Bible evidence proves that a law remains in effect if it was first given before Moses?
The passages we studied show that God removed the laws that were included in the Covenant or law given at Sinai. The 1o Commands and the Sabbath were included in the covenant or law given through Moses. Therefore, they were removed when God removed that covenant/law. Simply stating that laws are still in effect if they were given before Moses proves nothing. God says He took away all the laws included in the covenant/law given through Moses.
Animal sacrifices (Gen. 4:4; 8:20; etc.)
Circumcision (Gen. 17:9-14)
Unclean animals (Gen. 7:2).
Sabbatarians agree that some or all of these are no longer binding, yet all were given before Moses. Therefore, the Sabbath would also not be binding even if it had been given before Moses.
No passage states that Noah, Abraham, Jacob, or any of the patriarchs kept the Sabbath.
Ezekiel 20:10-12 says God gave Israel the Sabbath as a sign between Him and them when He led them out of Egypt, and Deut. 5:15 says it was a memorial of that event (cf. Neh. 9:13,14; Ex. 31:13-17). How could it be a sign between Him and one nation if everyone since creation had the same sign? And how could it be a memorial of an event before that event occurred?
Genesis 2:3 says only that God Himself rested on the seventh day, and it says that is why He blessed and sanctified it. But that does not tell when He began to require men to keep it, nor who was required to keep it. Remember, Moses wrote Genesis many years after Israel left Egypt and had been given the Sabbath. He mentions the Sabbath in connection with the Creation so men would see the purpose of it, not necessarily to tell when people began to keep it. Similar language is found in Gen. 3:20 and Matt. 10:4.
But when instructing or requesting people to "remember" something in the future - especially when instituting a memorial to be observed in the future - "remember" can mean to recall in the future things that are presently happening or being instituted. It does not necessarily mean to continue something begun in the past. Examples:
Exodus 13:3 - In instituting the Passover, Moses told Israel to "remember" this day in which you went out of Egypt. But it was just then happening. The meaning was to observe it as a memorial in the future (vv 9,10). It did not mean for them to continue a past practice.
Genesis 9:9,13-15 - The rainbow would be a sign of the covenant God made never to again flood the whole earth. God would "remember" the covenant whenever He saw the rainbow. But the covenant was just then being made. It was not continuing a past covenant or practice.
Luke 23:42 - The thief asked Jesus, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom." But what he wanted remembered was happening right then, not something from before then.
Luke 22:19 - In instituting the Lord's Supper Jesus said to do this in "remembrance" of His body and blood. But He had not yet died.
Likewise Exodus 20:8 is not a command to continue a practice begun in the past. Rather, it was a command to observe in the future a practice being instituted in Moses' law.Some point out the Sabbath was revealed before Sinai in Exodus 16.
This was commanded in connection with instructions for gathering manna. But this was a command only to the nation of Israel and it was begun by God through Moses. Nothing here implies the Sabbath was given to any other nation or to anyone before Moses.
The Passover (Ex. 12) was revealed even before Exodus 16. Yet it was a memorial given through Moses only to the nation of Israel.
Both the Sabbath and the Passover were memorial holy days given by God through Moses to the people of Israel. Neither were ever commanded to people of other nations. No passage says either were practiced by any people before the time of Moses. And neither are in effect today.
Nothing in these arguments changes the conclusion that no passage ever describes any people observing the Sabbath before it was commanded through Moses to the nation of Israel. But even so, laws given before Moses ended at the cross unless the New Testament includes them as commands for today.
Some say the Sabbath is still in effect because Exodus 31:16,17 says it was to be kept "forever," "everlasting," "perpetual."
If this law is still in effect today, it must be kept the way it says to keep it. To fail to do so is to admit it is not really in effect today.
We can prove this by noting many other practices that God said were "forever," etc., but which definitely have ceased. Examples are:
The Passover (Ex. 12:14)
Incense (Ex. 30:8)
Feast days (Lev. 23:14,21,31,41)
Animal sacrifices (Lev. 16:29-34; 6:19-23; 2 Chron. 2:4)
The Levitical priesthood (Ex. 40:15; 29:9,26-28; 28:40-43; Num. 25:13; Deut. 18:5)
Tabernacle worship (Ex. 27:21; 30:8,17-21; Lev. 24:5-9)
Circumcision (Gen. 17:9-14)
All God's commands and ordinances (Psa. 111:7; 119:151,152,160).
We have earlier given the evidence that all these practices have ceased, despite the fact they were "forever," "everlasting," etc. So, why cannot the Sabbath likewise have ceased?
The context of Ex. 31:13,16 defines this further to mean "throughout Israel's generations." This expression was also used for many of the other above practices, and we earlier learned that it proves these practices, including the Sabbath, have all ceased because Israel's generations as God's chosen nation have ceased.
All these efforts to justify binding parts of the Old Testament today are doomed to fail. This conclusion will be confirmed further as we proceed.
Luke 4:16; Psalms 40:8; Isaiah 42:21; Matthew 19:16ff - Some say Jesus kept the law, including the Sabbath, magnified the law, and taught others to keep the Ten Commands. He is our Lord and example, so we must keep it too.
So of course He kept the Sabbath (Luke 4:16; etc.). The law was not removed until He died (Colossians 2:14; Ephesians 2:13-16; Hebrews 9:16,17; Romans 7:4).
He was circumcised (Luke 2:21),
He had animals offered for him (Luke 2:22-24) and taught others to offer animal sacrifices (Matt. 8:4; Mark 1:44; Luke 2:22ff; cf. Lev. 14:1-32)
He observed feast days (Luke 2:41f; Matt. 26:17ff)
He showed great zeal for the physical temple (John 2:13-17).
He taught others to observe all things taught by those who sat in Moses' seat (Matt. 23:2,3).
Are we today required to do all these because He did them? All these were in effect till He died, not afterward.
Yes, Jesus magnified, honored, and kept the law - the whole law, not just the Sabbath and the Ten Commands. The fact that Jesus kept the law no more proves we should keep it than does the fact that Moses or David kept it. Of course they kept it. It was in effect till Jesus died.
Acts 13:14,42,44; 15:20,21; 16:13; 17:1-3; 18:4f - Some say that Paul attended the synagogues on the Sabbath day, so we should imitate his example and keep the Sabbath too.
The passages used to "prove" he did are all referring to assemblies of unconverted Jews. Not one of these refers to an assembly of Christians meeting to observe the Sabbath religiously. No passage anywhere tells Gentiles or Christians to keep the Sabbath.
Did he then contradict himself by binding what he taught was not binding?
See Acts 13:5,14-16ff,42,44; 14:1; 17:1-3; 18:4,5. Jews kept the Sabbath, as they had for generations (Acts 15:20,21), because they did not believe the Old Testament had been removed. Their assemblies offered an audience where Paul could teach people who should have been receptive to the gospel. But no passage says he attended for the purpose of observing the Sabbath.
Using an opportunity to teach is not the same as observing a religious day. Apostles taught other times and places too (Acts 5:42; 17:17,22; 19:9f; 20:7,31). Does this make all these times and places that we must observe religiously?
Almost invariably, after a few teaching sessions, the Jews would evict Paul from the synagogues. What passage describes him arranging religious meetings on the Sabbath after the Jews no longer allowed him to teach in the synagogues? None. So it was the Jews, not Paul, who chose the Sabbath day as a time to meet; he just used the opportunity they provided.
Likewise, if Sabbatarians will allow us, we will gladly attend their Sabbath meetings to teach them the truth, but we would not be doing it to observe the Sabbath. (If they attended our assembly on Sunday to teach us their views, would that prove they had become Sunday keepers?)
The fact is that there is not one single example of Jesus' true followers conducting a religious meeting on the Sabbath day after Jesus' death - not one. Every example of a Sabbath meeting after Jesus' death is a meeting of unconverted sinners who chose the time to meet because they did not yet understand or believe the true gospel. It is as wrong to use them to determine when Christians should meet for worship as it would be to allow unconverted sinners to determine any other practice for Christians.
Some folks cite passages saying Abraham, Noah, etc., kept God's commands (Genesis 6:22; 26:5) or passages where Jesus or His apostles taught Christians to keep God's commands (John 14:15; 1 John 3:4; 5:3; etc.). So they conclude these commands include keeping the Sabbath.
We have argued that the Sabbath command was given only to Israel (as above) and was in effect only from the time of Moses' teaching till the time Jesus died on the cross. This argument is a Sabbatarian attempt to respond to our evidence by claiming that the Sabbath command applies to all people throughout the history of the world.
But this argument ignores the entire issue and assumes the very thing they must prove. They assume that just because people kept God's commands that the Sabbath command was included. I.e., they assume with no proof that the Sabbath command did in fact apply to these people, despite the complete lack of evidence that this was true.
We agree that all these people kept the commands that God gave them to obey. Noah kept whatever laws God gave him, Abraham kept whatever laws God gave Him, and we should keep the laws God has given through Jesus in the New Testament. But we showed (see the introduction) that many commands of God applied only to certain people and only for a limited time. Where is the proof that the Sabbath command is included in the commands that were observed by Noah, Abraham, etc., or in the commands God gave to us today?
The force of the Sabbatarian argument is this: Abraham, Noah, etc., kept the commands of God, and Jesus and His apostles taught Christians to keep the commands of God. The Sabbath is a command of God, therefore Abraham, Noah, etc., kept the Sabbath and so should we.
To test the validity of this argument, try a few other commands of God:
* God gave a command to build an ark - Genesis 6:14,22. Abraham kept God's commands and so should we, so Abraham built an ark like Noah and so should we.
* God gave a command to sacrifice a son - Genesis 22:2. Noah kept God's commands and so should we, so Noah sacrificed his son and so should we.
* God gave a command to circumcise sons - Genesis 17:2-14; 21:4. Noah obeyed God's commands and so should we, so Noah obeyed the command to be circumcised and so should we.
* God gave a command to observe the Passover - Exodus 12:14-18,24,28. Noah, Abraham, and Christians should keep God's commands, so Noah and Abraham kept the Passover and so should we.
The examples demonstrate the fallacy of the argument. The point is that none of these commands applied to people in general for all time. Their application was limited to certain people for a certain time. To apply them to others is to simply teach false doctrine.
Likewise, we have shown that the Sabbath command was limited to certain people for a certain time. There is no evidence Noah or Abraham kept it, and no evidence God has instructed Christians to keep it. So general passages saying people kept commands are irrelevant.
The fact remains that, when the Sabbath command was in effect, numerous passages plainly required Israelites to observe it. But no passage anywhere instructs anyone but the nation of Israel (with strangers and proselytes) to keep the Sabbath, nor does any passage anywhere instruct any people to keep the Sabbath before Moses gave the instruction to Israel nor any people since Jesus died on the cross.
The very fact that Sabbatarians make such flimsy, vain arguments as this one shows that they feel the power of this evidence. If they had a passage plainly instructing someone to keep the Sabbath before Moses or after Jesus' death, they would simply produce it. If they had a passage plainly instructing someone other than Israelites to keep the Sabbath, they would produce it. The fact they make arguments like this one shows how weak their evidence really is.
Some passages refer to the Sabbath as the Sabbath of the Lord. Jesus said He was Lord of the Sabbath. So some argue these expressions mean the Sabbath is still in effect.
Exodus 12:11; Numbers 28:16 - The Passover was "the Lord's Passover"
Leviticus 23:4,5,37,39,44 - Like the Sabbath, other feasts were feasts of the Lord
1 Samuel 1:3 - Levitical priests were priests of the Lord
1 Kings 2:28 - The Tabernacle was the Tabernacle of the Lord.
All these were special and holy to God before Jesus removed the law. But all the passages studied earlier show they are not in effect under the gospel.
Note that Isaiah 58:1,2,13; Exodus 20:10; Leviticus 23:38 are all addressed to the nation of Israel while the law was still in effect. They were not addressed to Christians today.
In Matthew 12:8, etc., Jesus was explaining the Sabbath law to Jews living under the law. As shown under Part III below, the law was in effect till Jesus died. He lived under it and obeyed it. His ministry was to Jews, so the people to whom He spoke were subject to the Old Law.
Jews had accused Jesus' and His disciples of violating the Sabbath. This was a common false accusation. The context discusses whether or not Jesus and His disciples had violated the Old Testament law that was then in effect. Nothing here states or implies that the Sabbath would be in effect on Jesus' disciples under the gospel. That is not under discussion.
"Lord" means master or ruler. Jesus was claiming that, being Deity or God in the flesh, He had the right to authoritatively explain any Divine law, including the Sabbath law. He made a similar point in Matthew 12:6 when He said One greater than the temple was present - i.e., He had authority over the temple and likewise over the Old Law.
In the next verses, He performed a great healing on the Sabbath. How could Jesus do a miracle if He had just preached error about the Sabbath or had justified people who violated it? This proved the authority of His teaching about the Sabbath, etc. He was "Lord of the Sabbath."
Had the Pharisees recognized His Lordship and authority, they would not have opposed His explanation of the Sabbath law. That is the point of Jesus' claim to be "Lord of the Sabbath."
If He was Lord of it, He had the power to decree when it would cease to be binding. He did so. He ended it at the cross - Colossians 2:14,16.
Nothing here states or implies anything whatever about Christians observing the Sabbath when the gospel came into effect after Jesus' death.
Some claim this means that God made the Sabbath for man, meaning mankind - all people in all ages - therefore all people in all ages must observe it.
This verse says simply "the Sabbath was made for man" (Mark 2:27). As in our notes on "Lord of the Sabbath," Jesus made this statement in the midst of a discussion with the Jews about what the Sabbath law required. The discussion had nothing to do with who was obligated to keep the Sabbath, but rather what constituted violation of the Sabbath.
Consider a few examples:
Matthew 9:8 - God gave power to do miracles to men (all men everywhere in all ages?)
1 Corinthians 15:8 - By man came death (by all men, etc.? - no, just one man, Adam); by man comes the resurrection (all men, everywhere, etc.? - no, just one man, Jesus)
Hebrews 5:1 - Every high priest is appointed on behalf of men (all men, everywhere, etc.?)
Ezekiel 20:1 - God gave His statutes (in the Old Testament) which if a man does them he will live (all men everywhere in all ages must keep the Old Law?)
In context Jesus was discussing with people who bound human traditions about the Sabbath thereby creating hardships and problems that the Sabbath law was never intended to create (for example, that it was wrong to help sick people on the Sabbath). "The Sabbath was made for man" means that God made the Sabbath rest to bless and help people, not to create hardships for them. As "Lord of the Sabbath" (v28), Jesus knew the proper application of the Sabbath law.
The discussion in the context had nothing whatever to do with how many people or which people the Sabbath law applied to. The entire purpose was to explain the intent of the law for those to whom it did apply. But other verses do tell to whom the Sabbath law applied and how long it was in effect. We have studied them under Part I.
Some say this proves that the Old Law is still binding and effective as law today.
7:1-7 says we are dead to the law and discharged from it like a woman whose first husband has died. That law includes the Ten Commands (v7).
Part I above cites numerous proofs from Paul that the Ten Commands and Sabbath are removed from force as law today. Paul does not contradict himself.
3:31 says simply "law." Unless there is proof otherwise, this includes all the law, not just the Sabbath or Ten Commands.
2:17-20 - "The law" was the law in which the Jews rested. That included much more than just the Ten Commands.
3:21 refers to it as "the Law and the Prophets" - a standard description for the whole Old Law, both what Moses wrote and what the other prophets wrote (see Part I, #1).
If 3:31 means the law is still in effect, then it is all in effect, animal sacrifices, circumcision, Levitical priesthood, etc.
So again, if the law is binding, then it is all binding - Galatians 5:3. But Sabbatarians do not really believe the whole law is in effect. They want to keep only parts of the law. So Romans 3:31 does not help their case.
3:31 is not discussing whether or not the law is still in effect on Christians today. Paul said, "we" establish the law. But "we" (Paul and us) could not make the law binding or make it void if we wanted to. That can only be done by God. So 3:31 discusses, not whether or not the law is binding today, but whether or not we respect the law for what it did accomplish.
"Make void" (NKJV) is translated "nullify" (NASB), "make of none effect" (ASV), or "overthrow" (ESV). Paul did not lack respect for the law, nor did he seek to invalidate or overthrow the law by rebelling against its teaching. He did not teach that the Old Law is binding as law today, but neither did he mean that it was untrue, worthless, or of no value.
To "establish" means to "uphold" (NIV) or recognize the validity of something. Paul recognized that the law had been revealed from God and therefore had expressed Divine authority. It had served a valid need. Paul's teaching did not violate or contradict the teaching of the law, but rather conformed with and confirmed that teaching. The law was given by the authority of God. It had its intended purpose and it fulfilled that purpose. That purpose included preparing people for the gospel (Galatians 3:24,25). Paul recognized all of this and rebelled against none of it. The cessation of the law when Jesus died on the cross, as Paul taught, showed no disrespect whatever for the law, since the law itself predicted all along that this would happen.
Paul had just said that what he taught was witnessed by the Law and Prophets (3:21). The Old Law predicted the coming of Jesus and His New Testament. See Psalm 110:4; Zechariah 6:12,13 with Hebrews 7:11-14; Jeremiah 31:31-34 with Hebrews 8:6-12; Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:1,6-10 with Luke 24:47; Mark 16:15,16
So 3:31 simply means that Paul's teaching recognized the validity of the law for the purpose for which God gave it. His teaching agreed with the provisions of the law, but the law was intended all along to be temporary and anticipated the fact that the gospel would replace it.
Since vv 4,10 mention the 7th day and God resting, it is argued that the "rest" that remains for God's people is the seventh-day Sabbath.
Nothing is said about when God's people would rest or how long or how often. Those who claim this requires people to rest on the 7th day are adding what the passage does not state. The similarity between God's rest and His people's rest refers only to the concept of ceasing labor, not regarding when, how often, or how long.
"Sabbath" does not necessarily mean a day of rest, let alone the 7th day. The term is used for different frequencies and durations of rest. Only the context can tell whether the rest refers to the 7th day of the week. Here are some examples where the word for "sabbath" is used to refer to various times and durations of rest:
Leviticus 16:19-31; 23:31,32 - The day of atonement involved a sabbath
Leviticus 25:2-8 - The land would keep a sabbath of rest for one year every 7th year.
Leviticus 26:34,35,43; 2 Chronicles 36:21 - When the people went into exile, the land would keep its sabbaths. When they went into Babylon the sabbaths lasted 70 years.
Leviticus 23:24,25,39 - The feasts of Trumpets and Ingathering involved sabbaths, using a different but related word to the word for the Sabbath day.
So the word "sabbath" simply refers to a rest or a ceasing. It could last a day, a year, or many years. It could be once a week, once every seven years, or some undetermined time. This can only be determined by context.
But Hebrews 4 does not say how long the rest of v9 would last or when it would occur. To argue it is the 7th-day Sabbath is to claim what cannot be proved.
Chapters 3 & 4 refer several times to "rest" for God's people, but the word used is not the word for the Sabbath. V9 uses a word with a similar root as "sabbath," but it is a different word. The usual word for the Sabbath day (sabbaton) is not used anywhere in Hebrews 4. The word for "rest" in v9 (sabbatismos) is used only here, and the context shows that it simply describes rest, not a particular day of rest.
The translators recognized this distinction and translated accordingly. Standard translations of 4:9 say God's people will receive a "rest" (KJV, NKJV) or "sabbath rest" (ASV) or "Sabbath rest" (NASB, NIV, ESV). No standard translation of v9 says "Sabbath day." They all emphasize the idea of rest, not the idea of a "day."
Thayer, for example, says the word in Hebrews 4:9 means: "the blessed rest from toils and troubles looked for in the age to come by the true worshipers of God and true Christians." Thayer is a fallible human, but the point is that v9 does not use the word for the 7th-day Sabbath.
To illustrate, consider the difference in English between "Sabbath day" and "sabbatical." These words have the same root, but they differ because they refer to different ideas. Both imply a rest or break, but a "sabbatical" may be of any duration or frequency. Only context can determine. Likewise, the word in Hebrews 4:9 could refer to any period of rest, regardless of when it happens, how often it happens, or how long it lasts. Only the context can tell these things.
1) Vv 4,10 refer to God resting on the 7th day when creation was complete. But vv 9,10 show that the parallel between this and the "rest" promised to God's people refers simply the idea of resting or ceasing work. Nothing says God's people here rest on any particular day.
2) In context, chapters 3 & 4 discuss Israel's failure to enter the rest God had promised them in Canaan. Note the repeated references to not "entering" the "rest" - 3:11,18,19; 4:3,5.
This point was first stated in Psalms 95:7-11, which is quoted in Hebrews 3:7-11 and explained in 3:16-19. God had promised that Israel would receive "rest" when they "entered" the promised land of Canaan - Exodus 33:14; Deut. 3:20; 12:9,10; 25:19. But those who left Egypt under Moses' leadership were disobedient, so God decreed that they would not enter that rest but would wander in the wilderness forty years. See Numbers 14:23,28-30; Deut.1:34,35.
Note that none of this had anything to do with the 7th-day Sabbath. Israel did receive the command to keep the Sabbath day. But Hebrews 3,4 discusses a rest that God promised to them but they did not enter because of their rebellion against Him in the wilderness.
3) Likewise, the context admonishes God's people today to learn from Israel's failure. Note 4:1 - As with Israel, the context discusses a "promise" God's people seek to "enter," not a command to be observed, remembered, or kept holy. Note again the repeated references to our "entering" the "rest" God has prepared - 4:1,3,6,9,10,11.
3:12-15; 4:1-11 explain that, even after Israel finally entered Canaan under Joshua's leadership, still David had later predicted (in Psalms 95) a "rest" that awaits God's people. We must not imitate Israel's disobedience or we too will not "enter" the "rest" that God has for us, but we can enter that rest if we hold fast to the end.Just as God promised to give Israel "rest" when they "entered" Canaan, so He has promised to give faithful Christians "rest" when we "enter" heaven. Note:
Matthew 11:28,29 - Jesus promised to give "rest" to the souls of those who labor and are heavy laden, if they will take His yoke upon them.
Revelation 14:13 - Those who die in the Lord "rest from their labors," just like Hebrews 4:10. The unfaithful, however, have no "rest" (v11).
2 Thessalonians 1:7 - The faithful will be given "rest" when Jesus is revealed from heaven, but those who do not obey the gospel will receive tribulation, etc. (vv 6,8,9).
Just like Hebrews 4, all these verses promise "rest" to God's faithful people - a rest that the disobedient do not receive. No one would think that any of these verses have anything to do with a command to observe a specific day of the week. And neither does Hebrews 4. We receive rest to our souls, then eternal rest in heaven. This is a promise - a blessing we may enter after we have been faithful - not a command we must obey. The reference to God's rest does not bind a day on us; it simply means He rested from His work, and someday we too will rest from ours.
If we can see that the "rest" Israel failed to enter is not the same as God's 7th day rest, and if we can see that the rest Israel failed to enter is not the same rest awaiting us, we should be able to see that the rest awaiting us is likewise similar to, but not the same as, God's 7th day rest.
Some argue that the terms of one's will must be determined before the death of the testator. But no special significance was attached to the first day of the week before Jesus died, therefore it cannot be concluded that the first day has any special significance in the New Testament.
It says only that the testator must die before his will is "in force" or takes effect. The terms or conditions of the will must be determined or settled before his death, but that tells nothing about when those conditions are revealed or made known to the beneficiaries. It is quite common for a will to be executed by representatives who make known the terms of a will after the testator dies, even though those terms were unknown to people beforehand.
1 Peter 1:20; Ephesians 3:10,11 - God's plan for the church and salvation through Jesus under the gospel was determined from eternity. So the terms of the New Testament were determined before Jesus' death.
Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 9:31,32; Luke 18:31-34; John 12:16 - Jesus began revealing some aspects of His Testament when He was alive. But the disciples were confused about many of His teachings, even after His death and resurrection. They simply were not ready to accept them.
John 14:26; 16:12-14 - Jesus clearly told the apostles that they would not be ready to accept many aspects of His teaching until after He died. Then the Holy Spirit would come to guide them to all truth. When the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost (a first day of the week), He began guiding the apostles to reveal the full contents of Jesus' Testament.
Luke 24:25,26,44-49 - Even after His death and resurrection, Jesus Himself explained many things to the apostles that they were not ready to understand before His death. When the Holy Spirit came, He revealed still more.
Luke 10:16; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Ephesians 3:3-5; 1 Peter 1:9-12 - As a result, when the New Testament apostles and prophets taught by inspiration, they revealed the will or testament of Jesus, much of which had never been revealed before Jesus died. This explains why many aspects of Jesus' New Testament - including the evidence for the first day of the week - were revealed by the apostles as guided by the Holy Spirit after Jesus died.
Some argue that the "law of liberty," by which we will be judged, is the Ten Commands, since v11 cites two of the Ten Commands.
Is this law also part of the Law of Liberty? If so, then the whole Old Law is still in effect. Once again, Sabbatarian arguments prove more than they themselves are willing to accept. Either the whole law is in effect, or none of it is in effect.
We agree these commands are all in effect today, not because they are in the Old Testament, but because they are included in the New Testament (see the illustration of contracts in the introduction; cf. Rom. 7:1-7; etc.).
Where does James say the Ten Commands as such are in effect today?
Where does he say the Sabbath is in effect today?
Actually, James is simply using these commands to illustrate a principle which is true of all law (vv 10,11). He then applies the principle to New Testament commands.
Compare 1 Corinthians 9:9 - Here Paul used a passage from the law of Moses to illustrate support of preachers. Does this prove the law of Moses is in effect today? No, Paul just used the old law to illustrate the application of the New Testament, just as in James 2:11,12.
Laws as such simply bind and restrict conduct. Since the law could not ultimately forgive sin (Hebrews 10:1ff), all that the Old Law - including the Sabbath and Ten Commands - could do was to bind people in guilt with no hope of forgiveness.
Romans 3:20 - The law can never justify anyone from sin, because it had no lasting forgiveness. All it could do was to give the knowledge of sin - it showed people that they were guilty (3:10-18,23; Galatians 3:19,22,23).
2 Corinthians 3:6-11,17 - What was written and engraved on stones - the Ten Commands - is a ministry of death, not of liberty (v7). That is why it passed away (v11). Liberty is found through the spirit of the Lord (v17).
So the commands of the Old Law, including the Ten Commands, could only identify sin and bind people in guilt when they disobeyed. What forgiveness did the Ten Commands give? None. They gave death and bondage, not liberty. So they passed away, to make way for the gospel!
John 8:31,32,34,36 - Jesus' word (v31) is the truth that can make us free (v32) from sin (v34). We are free indeed when the Son makes us free (v36). But the Son makes us free from sin through His death, which is the sacrifice of the New Testament (Hebrews 10:9,10; etc.).
Romans 7:2-7 - A woman whose husband has died is "free" from his law so she can marry another (v3). This illustrates that we are now delivered from the law (v6). What law? The law that said, "You shall not covet" - the Ten Commands! The Ten Commands are not the law of liberty. They are the law from which Jesus freed us!
Romans 8:1-3 - In Christ we are free from the law of sin and death (v2), so there is no condemnation (v1). The law could not do this (v3).
Galatians 2:4; 5:1 - Those who desire to be under the law (4:21) are spying out the liberty we have in Christ and would bring us into bondage (2:4). So we should not yield even for an hour (2:5), but should stand fast in the liberty by which Christ made us free and refuse to be entangled again in a yoke of bondage (5:1).
All these passages say liberty is in Christ and His gospel, because only it provides forgiveness. The Ten Commands offered no forgiveness. So the perfect law of liberty must be the gospel, not the Ten Commands.
Cf. Luke 4:18; Romans 1:16; 6:7,17,18,22; 1 Peter 1:22-25.
If the Ten Commandment law was perfect, why did God give the New Testament? Why would any other system be needed if what was given was already perfect? As shown above, the gospel of Christ has done for us what the law could not do.
Hebrews 7:18,19 - The former command was annulled because it made nothing perfect, so God brought in a better hope by a better covenant (7:22). So Christ removed the first covenant and gave us the second will under which we are sanctified by His sacrifice (10:9,10). That offering perfects those who are sanctified (10:14).
The gospel is a better covenant (Hebrews 7:22; 8:6) than the one God gave to Israel when He led them out of Egypt (8:8,9). That first covenant was not faultless; if it had been, God would not have given another covenant (8:7). But that first covenant included the Ten Commands and has now been removed - See Part I, #1 and notes on Hebrews 8-10 in Part I, #3. (See also Hebrews 8:6; 9:23.)
There was no perfection before Jesus died. The Ten Commands (and all the law) were given long before Jesus died. Therefore, perfection is not through the Ten Commands but through Jesus and the gospel. So "the perfect law of liberty" refers, not to the Ten Commands, but to the New Testament.
James 2:12 says that law of liberty is what we will be judged by.
But Romans 2:16; John 12:48 say we will be judged by the teachings of Jesus, the gospel.
Colossians 2:16 says to allow no one to judge us regarding the Sabbath, etc.
So the perfect law of liberty is the gospel teaching of Jesus, not the Ten Commands/Sabbath.
Some claim that uninspired history proves Christians kept the Sabbath long after Jesus' death, so we must keep it today. In particular, some claim that history proves the Catholic Church changed the day of worship from the 7th day to the first day of the week.
Uninspired history may have some value in confirming the accuracy of Bible history and geography, in demonstrating the fulfillment of Bible prophecies, and perhaps even in helping convince people that they need to study the Bible teaching about some subject. History may also establish that some specific religious group has taught or practiced error or that someone has committed some sin.
But uninspired history is seriously misused when people attempt to use it to determine what our practice should be in serving God.
This necessarily follows from the simple fact that it is made by uninspired humans. People make mistakes, either through ignorance, carelessness, or bias. It follows that, if we use history as the basis for our conclusions about what we should or should not practice, we may be in error.
Even if it can be proved that people historically participated in some practice, history can never tell us how God views that act. Does He approve or disapprove?
2 Timothy 3:16,17; Titus 1:2,3; Revelation 21:5 - Only God's inspired word can tell whether He says a practice is right or wrong.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25; Proverbs 3:5,6; Galatians 1:8-12; 2 John 9-11 - God's word repeatedly warns us not to follow human wisdom in determining what to do in His service. We must abide in the doctrine of Christ, which is revealed only in Scripture. Clearly uninspired history is not the doctrine of Christ. So, it must not be the source of our doctrine.
[Revelation 22:18,19; Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:11]
What is tradition but the record of past practices handed down through the years? This is why churches that openly profess to follow tradition are so constantly studying and citing history. But human tradition often contradicts Divine truth.
Mark 7:3-9,13; Colossians 2:8 - The Bible condemns following human authority in general, and tradition in particular, as the standard for our faith (cf. Matthew 15:9,13). Specifically, Jesus rebuked people for following human traditions that differed from God's word.
Suppose it could be proved by history that people who claimed to be Christians did keep the Sabbath after the first century. The fact remains that many so-called Christians throughout history have seriously apostatized from the truth, as the New Testament predicts. How would we know these Sabbath-keepers are not in error, following false teaching and false teachers? The only way to know that would be by Scripture. So the end result is that the practice of these people proves nothing about what we should practice.
Even inspired history describes Christians in the first century - such as those in Corinth or the seven churches of Asia - who were deeply involved in practicing error. Specifically, we know from the New Testament that many Jews claimed to be Jesus' disciples, yet they bound the Old Law on others, including circumcision and the whole old law. Surely that would include the Sabbath. And apparently many Gentiles accepted this teaching. So uninspired history, if it were accurate, could record that these people kept the Old Law, including circumcision, the Sabbath, etc. But that would prove only that they did it - not that they had God's approval.
On the contrary, whole books and whole chapters of the New Testament were written to prove that these people were wrong, as listed under Part I above: Acts 15, the books of Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews, and major sections of 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians.
So, uninspired history can never infallibly determine what early churches practiced; but even if it could, that still would not tell us whether or not God approved those practices.
The argument that the Catholic Church changed worship from the seventh day to the first day is a weak argument for all the above reasons. Their history is fallible and may be mistaken. More important, it does not prove what God approves or disapproves.
For example, the Catholic Church claims they gave us the Bible; so anytime we follow the Bible, they say we are following teaching they gave us. Is this true? Not at all. And the same applies to their claim to have given us worship on the first day of the week.
The fundamental error of Catholicism on this point is that they claim to be the original church. So they think they originated everything in the New Testament. This is false. The Catholic Church is not the original church. It is an apostasy from the first church. It did not exist as a church till long after the first century.
Specifically, many Catholic teachings contradict the Bible. Why would they give us a standard of authority that contradicts their practices repeatedly? They didn't. The Bible was given to us, not by Catholicism, but by God through inspired men in the first century.
One truth in the Bible is that the Old Law and the Sabbath were removed and the special day of worship for Christians is the first day of the week. We have abundantly established this by Scripture with no appeal to any Catholic teaching or tradition.
Quotes below show that the first day was observed long before the Catholic Church began.
Although we adamantly deny that uninspired history should be the basis for determining our practice today, this does not mean that the practice of worshiping on the first day of the week suffers at the hands of history. There is abundant evidence from well-known early Christian writers confirming that early Christians did worship on the first day of the week.
This evidence should not be used as the basis of our practice. But it does prove that people are mistaken when they claim that history confirms Christians should keep the Sabbath or that the Catholic Church gave us Sunday worship. Consider:
"If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death..." - Epistle to the Magnesians, Chap. 9; www.newadvent.org/fathers/0105.htm; (6/2011)
"Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day, also, on which Jesus arose again from the dead." - Epistle of Barnabas, chap. 15; www.newadvent.org/fathers/0124.htm
"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place ... But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because ... Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things..." - The First Apology of Justin, chap. LXVII; www.newadvent.org/fathers/0126.htm
Note that the context of this quotation describes this Sunday assembly including teaching from the Scriptures, prayer, the Lord's Supper, and the collection.
"Wherever we are, we are all called after the one name of Christ- Christians. On one day, the first of the week, we assemble ourselves together ... " - The Book of the Laws of Various Countries; www.newadvent.org/fathers/0862.htm
It follows, accordingly, that, in so far as the abolition of carnal circumcision and of the old law is demonstrated as having been consummated at its specific times, so also the observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary... But the Jews are sure to say, that ever since this precept was given through Moses, the observance has been binding. Manifest accordingly it is, that the precept was not eternal nor spiritual, but temporary, which would one day cease... Whence it is manifest that the force of such precepts was temporary ...and that it was not with a view to its observance in perpetuity that God formerly gave them such a law. - An Answer to the Jews, Chap. 4, "Of the Observance of the Sabbath"; http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0308.htm
In chap. 2 he argues that Adam, Abel, Noah, Enoch, etc., none of them kept the Sabbath. He also argues these same points at length in his writing Against Marcion, Book V, here:http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/03125.htm
"But the Lord's day we celebrate as a day of joy, because on it He rose again..." Canonical Epistle, Canon 15; http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0620.htm
Regarding the patriarchs before the flood, he says:
"They did not, therefore, regard circumcision, nor observe the Sabbath, neither do we; neither do we abstain from certain foods, nor regard other injunctions, which Moses subsequently delivered to be observed in types and symbols, because such things as these do not belong to Christians." - Ecclesiastical History, Book I, chap. IV (pp 26,27 in my personal copy)
Regarding "the Heresy of the Ebionites":
"They also observe the Sabbath and other discipline of the Jews, just like them, but on the other hand, they also celebrate the Lord's days very much like us, in commemoration of his resurrection." - Ecclesiastical History, Book III, chap XXVII (p113 in my copy)
(So some who claimed to be Christians observed both the 7th-day Sabbath and the first day of the week, but Eusebius viewed them as heretics. Those who were not heretics kept the Lord's day in commemoration of Jesus' resurrection, but not the Sabbath.)
"The Lord's Day took the place of the Jewish Sabbath as the weekly day of public worship. ... The day was transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week ... Thus the first day was already in the apostolic age honorably designated as 'the Lord's Day.' On that day Paul met with the disciples at Troas and preached till midnight. On that day he ordered the Galatian and Corinthian Christians to make, no doubt in connect with divine service, their weekly contributions ... It appears, therefore, from the New Testament itself, that Sunday was observed as a day of worship ... The universal and uncontradicted Sunday observance in the second century can only be explained by the fact that it had its roots in apostolic practice..." - Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. I, Chapter IX, par. 57 (pp. 221,222 in my copy)
"The celebration of the Lord's day in memory of the resurrection of Christ dates undoubtedly from the apostolic age. Nothing short of apostolic precedent can account for the universal religious observance in the churches of the second century. There is no dissenting voice. This custom is confirmed by the testimonies of the earliest post-apostolic writers as Barnabas, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr. It is also confirmed by the younger Pliny. The Didache calls the first day 'the Lord's Day of the Lord.' ..." "The fathers did not regard the Christian Sunday as a continuation of, but as a substitute for, the Jewish Sabbath, and based it not so much on the fourth commandment, and the primitive rest of God in creation ... as upon the resurrection of Christ and the apostolic tradition...""We see then that the ante-Nicene church clearly distinguished the Christian Sunday from the Jewish Sabbath, and put it on independent Christian ground...." - Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol II, Chapter V, par. 60 (pp. 94,95 in my copy)
Note that we have documented general observance of the first day long before the beginning of the Catholic Church. Again, our practice should be established by Scripture, not inspired history. And we do not necessarily agree with all of these men doctrinally, but they do confirm historically that the first day of the week, not the 7th day, was observed by early Christians.
(When people offer historical evidence that early Christians kept the Sabbath, these references usually fall into one of several categories: (1) misquotations and misunderstandings, (2) quotations from apostate groups who kept both the Sabbath and the first day, as mentioned by Eusebius, or who had special activities on the 7th day during the weeks preceding their observance of Easter, (3) quotations from those who refer to the first day of the week as the "Christian Sabbath." Rare indeed are quotations from those who truly attempted to observe the 7th day but not the first day.)
Some people ask, "If the Ten Commands were removed, wouldn't that make it all right to steal, lie, murder, etc.?" So consider what the Bible says about the law we today should follow.
The reason the Old Covenant is not needed now is that a different law has taken its place.
Hebrews 10:9,10 - Jesus took away the first will that He might establish the second. It is a new covenant not like the one made with Israel at Sinai (8:6-9). (Cf. 7:22; 2 Cor. 3:6.)
Romans 7:4 - We are freed from the law that we might be joined to Christ.
Galatians 3:24-27 - The law was a tutor to bring us to Christ. Now that the gospel system of faith has come, we are no longer under the tutor (cf. 1:11,12).
An illustration: The area we now call the United States was once under British law, then under the Articles of Confederation, and now is under the Constitution. Similarly, God gave people first the patriarchal rule, then the laws at Sinai, and now the gospel or New Testament.
People today are no more subject to the Old Covenant than Americans are subject to the Articles of Confederation. But we are still subject to law - the laws contained in the New Testament.
Please read again the illustration of man-made covenants as discussed in our introduction. When a covenant is replaced by a subsequent covenant, no terms of the expired covenant are in effect.
Colossians 2:14 - He removed the first ordinances nailing them to His cross.
Ephesians 2:13-16 - He abolished the law through His blood shed on the cross (vv 13,16).
Hebrews 9:16,17 - As with any will or testament, Jesus had to die to bring His testament into force.
The old law was in effect until Jesus died, then it was replaced by the New Covenant.
(Cf. Gal. 3:13; Rom. 7:4)
Matthew 28:18-20 - Jesus possesses all authority so we must obey all His commands.
1 Corinthians 14:37 - The message written by the New Testament apostles and prophets are the commands of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 9:20,21 - Though Paul was not under the law of the Jews, he was not without law but was under law to Christ.
James 1:18,25 - The gospel is the perfect law of liberty, by which we will be judged.
God removed the old law, not so we might be without law, but so we would serve Him under the terms of the New Testament. There are commands for us to obey, but these are the commands of the New Testament, not those of the Old Testament.
(John 12:48; cf. 1 Pet. 1:22-25; Rom. 6:17,18; Acts 3:20-23; Isaiah 2:1-4)
We have seen that the covenant God gave through Moses applied only to the nation of Israel. The parties to that covenant were God and just one nation. However, the new covenant of Jesus is far more universal. It applies to all people of all nations everywhere in the whole world.
Matthew 28:19 - Go teach all nations.
Mark 16:15 - Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
Luke 24:47 - Repentance and remission of sins should be preached to all nations.
Acts 17:30 - God now commands all men everywhere to repent.
1 Timothy 2:4,6 - Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Therefore, God wants all men to come to know the gospel, so they can be saved (v4).
Colossians 1:6,23 - In the first century, the gospel was preached in "all the world" to the "whole creation."
So unlike the covenant made through Moses (and all previous covenants), the gospel new covenant specifics terms that must be met by all to be saved.
[Acts 4:12; Matthew 22:10; 24:14; Acts 17:30; Romans 1:5; 16:26; Acts 20:31]
We have learned that, even while the Old Testament was in effect, God had plans to eventually replace it. Will the New Testament likewise be replaced by some other system of commands for men on earth?
2 Corinthians 3:6-11 - The first covenant passed away so that it could be replaced by that which remains (does not pass away).
Hebrews 12:26-28 (cf. vv 18-29) - The Old Testament predicted that the law given at Sinai would be shaken (removed) that it might be replaced by another (the New Testament). But from the perspective of the Old Testament, this removal would happen only "once more." It would be replaced by a kingdom which cannot be shaken but will remain.
Jude 3 - The gospel faith was delivered to the saints once ("once for all" - NKJV, ASV). This word "once" is the same word used for Jesus' death in contrast to animal sacrifices (Heb. 10:10-14; 7:27; 9:12,25-28).
One reason the Old Testament had to be replaced was that it had animal sacrifices that had to be offered repeatedly because they could not permanently remove guilt. Because Jesus' sacrifice was perfect, it does not need to be repeated or replaced. Likewise, the gospel was given to men "once." It is God's last word to man. It is so perfect, it will never by changed nor replaced by God while the world stands. (cf. James 1:25; 1 Cor. 13:8-13).
The New Testament has the sacrifice of Jesus, which can remove all sins so they are remembered no more. This sacrifice was offered by the sinless and eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ Himself (Heb. 10:1-18; 7:11-28; 8:6-9; 9:11-28; Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:15,16).
Note the evidence that most of the commands are included in the New Testament.
1. No God but Jehovah - 1 Corinthians 8:4; Acts 14:15
2. No graven images - Galatians 5:19-21; Romans 1:22,23; 1 John 5:21
3. Don't take God's name in vain - James 5:12
4. Remember the Sabbath - This command is the only one of the ten which is nowhere repeated in the New Testament. The only Sabbath rest promised in the New Testament is eternal life (Heb. 4:9-11).
5. Honor your parents - Ephesians 6:2,3
6. Don't kill - Romans 13:8-10
7. Don't commit adultery - Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 6:9,10
8. Don't steal - Romans 13:8-10; Ephesians 4:28
9. Don't bear false witness - Revelation 21:8; 22:15; Colossians 3:9
10. Don't covet - Romans 13:8-10; Ephesians 5:3.
We obey the commands that were repeated in the New Testament, not because they were in the Old Testament, but because they are in the New Testament.
|Old Testament||New Testament|
Human high priest
Instrumental music (Psa. 150)
Tithing (Heb. 7:5)
Sabbath & holy days
|Sacrifice of Jesus (Heb. 10:9ff)
Jesus is high priest (Heb. 9:11f)
Spiritual temple (church - 1 Cor. 3:16)
Circumcision of heart (Rom. 2:28f)
Singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)
Give as prospered (1 Cor. 16:1f)
First day of week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1,2)
Compare Romans 7:2-6 - One woman is not subject to the authority of two husbands at once. If her first husband dies, the expectations of her second husband may in some ways he similar to those of her first husband, but they may be different in other ways. But the expectations of the first husband are no longer binding on the woman. If she does things similar to what she used to do, it is because the second husband wants them, not because the first husband wanted them.
Likewise, we are under the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant (including the Ten Commands). The laws are in some ways similar and in some ways different (cf. Heb. 8:9). But none of the requirements of the First Covenant have any power at all now. Wherever the laws are different, we follow the second covenant, not the first. Wherever the laws are similar, we obey, not because the first law said to, but because the New Covenant says to.
* On the first day of the week Jesus arose from the dead (Mark 16:9; Matt. 28:1,6; etc.).
* On the first day of the week Jesus first appeared to men to prove He had been raised (John 20:19; Mark 16:2,9; Matt. 28:1,6-10; etc.). Note that, according to Scripture records, the second day on which Jesus appeared to people was also a first day of the week (John 20:26ff).
* On the first day of the week the Holy Spirit came on the apostles, the gospel was first preached as being in effect, people first obeyed the gospel, and the church began. All this occurred on Pentecost, which was a first day of the week (Acts chap. 2; cf. Lev. 23:15,16).
All these major events occurred on the first day of the week. What event of major New Testament significance after Jesus' death ever occurred on the seventh day of the week? None - not one! So it should not surprise us to see that the first day of the week has special significance in the worship of the New Testament church.
1 Corinthians 16:1,2 - The church was commanded to take up the collection on the first day of the week. What passage tells the church to take up collections on the seventh day or any other day of the week?
Acts 20:7 - The church assembled regularly to partake of the Lord's Supper (Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:25; 1 Cor. 11:17,18,20). When did they so this? The passage says "on the first day of the week." What passage here or anywhere else tells the New Testament church to partake of the Lord's Supper on the seventh day or any other day of the week? And note that "the first day of the week" cannot possibly be the same as the "seventh day of the week."
Some say "break bread" in Acts 20:7 refers to a common meal. But "break bread" is a common term for the Lord's Supper (Matt. 26:26; Mark 16:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:23,24; Acts 2:42). We know Acts 20:7 refers to the Lord's Supper because the context clearly shows this was a worship assembly. And Paul, who preached on this occasion, had already taught that only the Lord's Supper, not common meals, should be eaten in the worship assembly (1 Cor. 11:17-34).
The significance of the day is also implied by the fact Paul waited 7 says to meet on the first day with the disciples (vv 6,7). But he was in a hurry (v16), so much so that he left at daylight the next day even though he had been up all night with the church (v11).
Note further that, if the church had met on the seventh day of the week to break bread, Paul could have saved all this trouble and left a day earlier. If the seventh day is the special day for Christian worship, and the first day has no significance, why is the first day mentioned but the seventh day is not? And why did Paul go to so much trouble to meet with the church on the first day instead of the seventh day?
Sabbath-keepers sometimes belittle the evidence that the first day of the week should be special to Christians. But when one observes the New Testament "proof" offered for keeping the seventh day, he sees by comparison how much evidence there is for the first day. If Sabbath keepers had verses talking about the seventh day like Acts 20:7 and 1 Cor. 16:1,2 and other passages talk about the first day, you can be sure they would consider them to be very convincing proof!
We do not say the first day of the week is the "Christian Sabbath." A Sabbath is a day of rest and no New Testament passage tells us to rest on the first day or any other particular day. There is no "Christian Sabbath." But the first day is a special day of worship, on which we do acts of worship that are authorized for no other day.
The only day authorized for the New Testament church to have the Lord's supper and the collection is the first day of the week. No passage anywhere in the Bible authorizes Jesus' church to do these things on the seventh day or any other day of the week.
The Bible teaches that the entire Old Testament law was removed by God Himself. None of it is binding today as law or as authority for any religious practice. This includes the Ten Commands and the Sabbath.
We now live under the New Testament. Every practice for the church must be authorized by the gospel. If no authority can be found in the New Testament for a practice, then it should be abandoned regardless of whether or not it was practiced in the Old Testament.
* Whether or not we should observe a whole host of practices depends entirely on whether or not we are subject to the Old Testament: the seventh-day Sabbath, animal sacrifices, the Levitical priesthood, circumcision, special holy days, burning incense, tithing, instrumental music and dancing in worship, etc. Each of these practices is authorized in the Old Testament, but not in the New. If the Old Law is no longer in effect, then none of these practices is authorized for Christians today.
* So important was this issue to Christians in the New Testament that they conducted a major meeting in Jerusalem to discuss the issue (Acts 15; Galatians 2) and wrote several inspired books primarily to discuss the issue (Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews) as well as parts of other books (2 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians).
* Jesus died to give us this better covenant. To return to the Old Testament would defeat a major purpose of His death.
* Inspired writers concluded that the New Testament is better than the Old in all the following ways. It has:
A better hope - Hebrews 7:19
A better covenant - Hebrews 7:22; 8:6
A more excellent ministry established on better promises - Hebrews 8:6
Better sacrifices - Hebrews 9:23
Why then should we be entangled again in the bondage of the Old Law?
Copyright 2011,David E. Pratte; gospelway.com
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.