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Friday, December 14, 2012

The Sabbath or the First Day of the Week?


Does the Bible teach Christians today to observe the 7th-day Sabbath, or is the first day of the week the special day for Christians?

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 does the Bible really teach?

Which of the following should Christians keep today?

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
* Tithing
* 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?

Many Old Testament commands of God are not in effect today.

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?

Man-made covenants as an illustration

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.

Part I: Evidence the 10 Commands & Sabbath Are Not Binding

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.

#1. The Ten Commands & Sabbath Were Given Only to Israel.

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.]

10 Commands and Sabbath Part of the Covenant Given at Sinai

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.

The Ten Commands were in the covenant at Sinai

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.

The Sabbath was in the covenant at Sinai

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.

10 Commands & Sabbath in the "Book of the Covenant."

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 covenant initiated - Ex. 19:3-8

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).

The covenant stated - Ex. 20:1-17; chap. 21-23

20:1-17 - The 10 Commands stated

Chap. 21-23- Other laws stated, including the Sabbath (23:12)

The covenant recorded and dedicated - Ex. 24:3-8

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."

Other passages

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.

10 Commands & the Sabbath in the "Law and the Prophets"

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."

10 Commands Given Specifically to Nation of Israel

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]

Sabbath Given Specifically to Israel

The Sabbath given to Israel

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]

Signs between God and Israel

* 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.

#2. These Laws Were in Effect Throughout Israel's Generations

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."

#3. Hebrews chapters 7-10

Christ removed the first covenant.

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.

The covenant that was removed included the 10 Commands and the Sabbath.

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.

#4. 2 Corinthians 3:6-11

The old covenant passed away.

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.

What covenant was it that passed away?

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.

#5. Galatians chapters 3-5

We are not under the law.

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.]

What law are we not under?

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).

Additional points

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).

#6. Romans 7:1-6

We are delivered from the law.

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.

From what law were we delivered?

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.]

Other points:

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).

#7. Ephesians 2:11-16

Jesus abolished the law of commandments

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!

What law was abolished?

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.

Did the Ten Commands and the Sabbath constitute "ordinances."

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 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."]

#8. Colossians 2:13-17

This context is many ways parallel to Ephesians 2.

Jesus wiped out the handwriting of requirements (ordinances).

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.)

What "requirements" were wiped out?

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.]

#9. Matthew 5:17,18

The law would be removed when it was fulfilled.

Not one jot or tittle would pass from the law till all was fulfilled.

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.

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!

What was included in that which was removed?

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.

#10. No New Testament Command to Keep the Sabbath

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?

The Old Testament Repeatedly Commanded Sabbath Observance.

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]

The Old Testament Stated Specific Consequences for Sabbath Observance.

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?

[Nehemiah 13:14-18]

Subjection to the Old Law Was a Major Issue 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?

#11. No One Today Really Keeps the Sabbath.

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.

Sabbath Requirements Often Ignored Today

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?

Do not cook, build a fire, or pick up sticks

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."

Stay home

Exodus 16:29 - Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.

Offer animal sacrifices

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]

Must be observed by servants, animals, and strangers in the city

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.

Do not buy or sell

Nehemiah 10:31 - If people bring wares or grain to sell, do not buy it on the Sabbath.

Set showbread on the table in the tabernacle

Leviticus 24:8 - Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually ... by an everlasting covenant.

Remember that you were a slave in Egypt

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.

Kill those who violate the Sabbath

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.

Sabbatarian Arguments Are Inconsistent.

Sabbath keepers ignore many if not most of the above requirements, yet they claim to keep the Sabbath law.

Sabbath keepers must be consistent.

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.

Many of their arguments are contradicted by the fact they don't keep these laws.

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.

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