"REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY, TO KEEP IT HOLY"
QUESTION OF SABBATH-KEEPING
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
Text: Exodus 20:8-11
In the religious world there are about seven churches that hold to the idea that the Ten Commandments are yet binding upon Christians, and that the seventh day of the week, the old Jewish Sabbath, is the day of worship in the Christian dispensation.
These churches are: Seventh-Day Adventists, Advent Christian Church, Church of God (Abrahamic Faith), Life and Advent Union, Seventh-Day Baptists, and Seventh-Day Church of God. Their views are similar in that they are premillennial, hold to soul-sleeping, believe that the Decalogue is God's moral law binding upon all in every age, and especially observe the seventh day of the week. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Ye have heard it said...but I say unto you...." He presented the position, then his answer. That procedure will be followed in this article.
Argument: The seventh day was sanctified for religious use, and was not classed with other days. Six days were given to man for his activities, but the seventh belonged to God, and still does.
Proof: On the seventh God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day...and God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it: because in it he had rested from all his work (Gen. 2:2-3).
God rested from all His works and gave the Sabbath at creation; therefore, man must keep it forever, for it still belongs to God. God is no respecter of persons (Rom. 2:11), and God changes not (Mai. 3:6), and Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27-28); therefore the Sabbath is for all men in all ages. God gave laws, statutes, and judgments before Mt. Sinai; therefore, the Sabbath was bound from the beginning.
Answer: The seventh day was classed with other days of the week, simply as another day. There is no question that the seventh day was sanctified, but when? Genesis 2:1-3 was a statement of fact, not a command. It was recorded by Moses some 2,500 years later. Nowhere is the Sabbath mentioned in the book of Genesis. Note, grammatically, that God sanctified (simple past tense) the seventh day, because in it He had rested (past perfect tense). Exodus 16:22-23 is the first mention of the Sabbath; therefore, the simple past tense indicates that God sanctified the Sabbath on Mt. Sinai (Exod. 20), because at a previous time (2,500 years before) he had rested. Prolepsis is a figure of speech that joins together in a statement two events widely separated in time. Example: Adam called his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living. Was she the mother of all living when Adam called her that? No, for in 1986 we are the offspring of Eve, and that is a long time removed from Creation. Just so, the sanctification of the Sabbath was a long time removed from the day God rested from creating.
Certainly God gave laws before Sinai, but the Sabbath was not included. Abraham was commanded to leave home (Gen. 12:1-2). He was commanded to keep the covenant of circumcision (Gen. 17:9-12), and later commanded to offer up Isaac (Gen. 22:1-18). Noah was commanded to build an ark (Gen. 6-8), but nowhere in Genesis was anyone commanded to keep the Sabbath. Mark 2:27-28 states that the Sabbath was made for man and that Christ is Lord also of the Sabbath. Note two things: (1) Since God rested on the first seventh day from all the works He had created and made, He did not make anything that day, hence, did not make the Sabbath then. (2) Christ being lord also of the Sabbath indicates He is lord of all days, not just one.
If the Sabbath had been binding from the seventh day of Creation, Moses would have known about it, but he did not, for Moses did not know what to do with Sabbath violators until after the law was given on Sinai (Num. 15:32-36). Further, Nehemiah 9:13-14 states that God came down upon Mt. Sinai and made known unto them His "holy Sabbath" and commanded laws and precepts by the hand of Moses, who was not on that mountain until 1491 B. C.; therefore, the Sabbath command was not known before then.
Argument: The Sabbath is a memorial of creation, for in six days God made heaven and earth, and rested the seventh day; therefore, the Sabbath will stand as long as the created heaven and earth remain (Exod. 20:10-11).
Answer: Sabbatarians are obligated to give one passage that says so or so teaches. The Bible does not say that the Sabbath is a memorial of creation, but if it did that would have nothing to do with binding the earthly Sabbath rest on Christians. A memorial of creation does not mean it would last forever. The Passover was a memorial of Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage, but did not last forever. Also, the Sabbath was a memorial of God's REST, not of the creation. God sanctified it at Mt. Sinai because he had rested centuries before. If it were to last only as long as the physical creation, the Sabbatarians could not observe it in the new heavens and new earth, as they claim, for the present creation will be destroyed (II Pet. 3:10-14). The Passover as a memorial was to be kept throughout the Jewish generations, and "Ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever" (Exod. 12:14). Sabbatarians think that "forever" means "eternal," but not on times side. Why do they not observe the Passover?
Redemption in Christ, the New Creation, is greater than the Old Creation. It took six days to create heavens and the earth, but it took some 4,000 years to prepare for the New Creation in Christ, the new and living way (Heb. 10:19-20). The New Creation cost more than the old (Acts 20:28; John 3:16), so why so much ado over the old which is of little importance, and so little over the memorial to Christ? The Apostles were guided into ALL truth (John 16:13), but nowhere can it be found that God through them bound the Sabbath upon Christians. The Sabbath was not a memorial of Creation, but of Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Note to whom the command was given:
The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us alive here this day... And remember that thou wast a servant in the Land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day (Deut. 5:3, 15).
Gentiles were never in Egyptian bondage as were the Jews, and certainly no Christian was ever in bondage there. This passage was directed to Jews only, and it is a part of the Decalogue. So, even the Ten Commandments as a code of laws were never directed to Christians.
Sabbath was to be a perpetual covenant and to last throughout
the generations of the Jews; since the Jews are still here, they yet
generations; hence, the
Sabbath is still binding.
Answer: If this means that Christians are bound by the Sabbath law today, Sabbatarians are obliged to keep more of the Old Testament than the Sabbath. (1) The Passover was to be kept throughout their generations (Exod. 12:14). (2) Incense was to burn throughout their generations (Exod. 30:8), and it was to be a perpetual covenant. Likewise the following to be observed "throughout your generations": burnt offerings (Exod. 29:2); fringes on garments (Num. 15:38); holy anointing oil (Exod. 20:31); an everlasting priesthood (Exod. 40:15). This last item would eliminate Christ. But, the everlasting priesthood has been changed, and Christ is now Priest, not the Levites (Heb. 7:11-12); therefore, the perpetual Sabbath has been abolished also.
Argument: The Ten Commandments were written on tables of stone with the literal finger of God (Exod. 31:18). The law of Moses was written in a book (Deut. 31:24). The law of God, the Decalogue, was placed inside the ark (Deut. 10:15), but the law of Moses was placed in a compartment on the side of the ark (Deut. 31:25-26). Therefore, the law of God continues, and the law of Moses has been abolished. That being true, the Sabbath law is still binding. Since the Ten Commandments were written by God's finger, the Decalogue is His eternal, moral law.
Answer: Sabbatarians hold the view that the Ten Commandments constitute the moral law of God and are binding forever, but that the rest of the law was of Moses, but was abrogated and not binding now. However, the Bible abundantly shows that the law of the Lord and the law of Moses are one and the same. I Kings 2:3 calls it "The law of the Lord given by Moses." II Chronicles 24:14 refers to "The Book of the law of the Lord given by Moses." Ezra 7:6 affirms "The law of Moses given by the Lord." Nehemiah records "The law of Moses which the Lord commanded." Nehemiah 10:29 says it was "God's law given by Moses." Malachi 4:4 speaks of the "law of Moses which I commanded at Horeb." From these it is easy to see that the Ten Commandments, the moral law, were also given by Moses; therefore, if the law of Moses was abrogated, so were the Ten Commandments, and there goes the Sabbath.
What is meant by the "finger of God?" When Moses and Aaron performed miracles in Egypt, Pharaoh said: "This is the finger of God" (Exod. 8:16-19). Christ cast out demons "by the finger of God" (Luke 11:20). The word "finger" in the Septuagint Old Testament and in the New Testament comes from daktulos, a Greek word that means "By the power of God, divine efficiency by which something is made visible to men." Power also means authority; therefore, "by the finger of God" means by the authority of God. So, since in both cases instrumentality was used, God the Father did not do the miracles personally, nor did He write the Ten Commandments personally with His literal finger. There are two reasons for this conclusion.
Acts 7:53 says that the law was given to the Jews by a disposition of angels, and Hebrews 2:2 affirms that "the word spoken by angels was stedfast." Therefore, God used angels to transmit the Decalogue to Moses. As you may recall, Moses broke the original stones upon which the Ten Commandments were written (Exod. 32:19). After rebuking the people for worshipping the golden calf, Moses returned to the mountain, and we have the following account:
And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments (Exod. 34:27-28).
So the honest soul can understand that the Decalogue was given through the agency of angels and Moses, the latter doing the actual writing upon the stones. Also, things that might be considered made directly by the hand of God are not necessarily eternal. God made Jonah's gourd to grow, but a worm killed it (Jonah 4:6). The heavens and earth made by the Lord will be destroyed (II Pet. 3:10-12). If only that written with the finger of God is moral, then nothing else written in the Old and New Testament is moral.
There are many other moral duties imposed in the Old Testament. If one were to borrow from his neighbor and it became damaged, he must make it good (Exod. 20:14). One should not hate his brother in his heart, but rebuke his neighbor, and not suffer sin to be upon him (Lev. 19:17). Leviticus 19:14 says, "Thou shalt not curse the deaf." They were to show love to strangers and help the poor (Deut. 10:19; 15:7-8). Further, the New Testament enjoins moral laws. Romans 12:14 says, "Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not." Matthew 12:36 states that every idle word will be taken into account in the last day. Matthew 25:31-46 shows that Christians must be of help to the poor. Many moral commands are given in the New Testament, too numerous to mention here, but these suffice to show that God's moral laws are not limited to the Ten Commandments.
Argument: Adventists affirm that when God wrote the Decalogue, He added no more to what He wrote on the tables of stone; therefore, this is the law of God and is still binding.
Deuteronomy 5:22 is given as proof:
These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more, and he wrote them on two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.
Answer: This does not mean that God did not give other laws, but that He added no more in an audible voice to the assembly. That He gave more laws has been proved, and that the law of Moses was also the law of God. However, Sabbatarians are highly inconsistent in the adding and subtracting process. They subtract the part of Deuteronomy 5:6 that shows that the Ten Commandments were given directly to those who had been in Egyptian bondage. They add it to the idea that the law was addressed to Christians. They add to chapter 5:14 and do work on the seventh day which the Jews were not allowed to do. They subtract from if they do not make strangers within their gates, or their cities, to observe the Sabbath, therefore condemned (Deut. 4:2). They alter it by not remembering that they were servants in the land of Egypt, and subtract one of the reasons God gave them for keeping the Sabbath; that is, deliverance from Egyptian bondage (Deut. 5:15). They take away the land promise referring to Canaan and do not take this as part of the reward for honoring mother and father (Deut. 5:16).
When they have changed that to which God added no more, they do not have the original Ten Commandments; hence, they do not keep them today any more than anyone else. By their accepting only what pleases them, they do not observe anything that God says. What they do is to please themselves, and will not listen to any amount of reasoning.
Argument: While Christ was on earth, He and all the apostles and the Jews observed the Sabbath. Isaiah 66:22-23 teaches that it will be observed in the new heaven and the new earth; therefore, it behooves us to worship on the seventh day now.
Answer: If this passage binds the Sabbath, it binds the monthly observance of the new moon also, which would likewise bind animal sacrifices, for Paul said in Galatians 5:3, that if one point of the law is bound, those who do so are obligated to keep the whole law. Colossians 2:14-17 teaches that new moons and Sabbaths have been done away. Sabbatarians admit the new moons are gone, but the Sabbath is not to be kept where the feast of new moons have been abrogated. What else is taught if this passage in Isaiah is taken literal?
The old, literal city of Jerusalem will be in the new heaven and new earth, thus a literal city in a spiritual realm (Isa. 65:17-20). The literal child will die a hundred years old (Isa. 66:20). The sinner in heaven, a hundred years old, will be cursed (Isa. 65:20). But there will be no sinners in heaven (Rev. 21:27). Man will build houses and plant literal vineyards (Isa. 65:2). This sounds like one premillennialist who expects to play golf and raise his best tomatoes in heaven. Some will go to various islands and bring Jews back to Jerusalem (66:19-20). Wolves, lambs, bullocks, and serpents to be there. Do they have souls? (66:25). The Jews are to bring their brethren as an offering to the Lord (66:20). Priests and Levites are to be selected (66:21), therefore, the whole of the old Mosaic system will be revived and everybody in heaven will be brought into bondage again.
Is the new moon of Isaiah 66:23 literal? If not, neither is the Sabbath. How will one be able to observe the new moon in heaven when there will be no night there? (Rev. 22:5). Neither will there be sun nor moon, for God is the light (Rev. 21:23). Isaiah 66:23 states that from one new moon to another, all flesh shall go to worship before God. How can that be when no flesh and blood shall enter heaven? (I Cor. 15:50). Seventh Day Adventists cannot believe these things to be literal, for they do not believe that Israel will be restored to Palestine.
Argument: Malachi 3:6 states that God changes not; therefore, the Sabbath is still binding. God is no respecter of persons (Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9), and He has never given any commands that were not applicable to all men from the creation.
Answer: God gave the law of circumcision which was not given before Abraham (Gen. 17:12-14), nor bound after Christ died upon the cross. If God is no respecter of persons, why does He not rain manna upon the earth today, as He did in the wilderness? (Exod. 16:15). Did God give the law of Moses? The Bible says He did. Did God remove the law of Moses? Adventists say He did. But if God changes not, is not the law of Moses yet binding upon us today? In the beginning God made all things, including man, by miracle. If He changes not, why not now also?
Deuteronomy 5:2-3 says that the law was not given to the fathers, but to those there that day that had been in Egyptian bondage. So you see that God did give laws to some that He did not give to others. Noah was commanded to build an ark. Are we? Abraham was called upon to offer his son for a sacrifice; does He so command us? Naaman was instructed to wash in Jordan seven times to be healed of leprosy. Is anyone so ordered today? If God changes not, but did do away with some commands, why not the Sabbath also? Changes have been made. The priesthood has been changed (Heb. 7:12). A new law was prophesied and given (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:8-13). God Himself does not change in nature, but He has changed dispensations and laws.
Argument: Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-19, "I am not come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." This means that Christ fulfilled the law of Moses, with its bloody sacrifices, and removed all this, but not the Ten Commandments. Jesus kept the Father's commands (John 6:38), and by His life taught us to keep the Sabbath day. Christ is the light of the world (John 1:4; 8:12), and He kept the Sabbath, therefore, for us to be in the light we must keep the Sabbath also. So, the Lord taught that not one jot or tittle will pass from the law as long as heaven and earth remain. Since Christ was baptized to fulfill righteousness, does that mean that when righteousness is fulfilled it is done away and that people should no longer be baptized?
Answer: The word "till" means until a specified time. Joseph knew not Mary till she had brought her firstborn son. So, after she had brought Him forth, he knew her, and she had more children. Christ was straitened till His suffering was accomplished (Luke 12:50). Was He continually straitened after He was crucified? Adventists think that every time "the law" is referred to, it means the Decalogue. Then that which Christ came to fulfill was the Ten Commandments, as well as the rest of the law of Moses, and Christ taught that the law would be done away when it was fulfilled; so when Christ accomplished this, the whole law, including the Decalogue, was done away.
"Fulfill" of itself does not mean "ended," but "done away" does. The law was fulfilled by Christ first, and then done away. Let us understand the real meaning of Matthew 5:17-19. Acts 23:12 reveals that some forty men lay in wait for Paul, saying, "they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed him." Does that mean they would never eat or drink again? No, but they would eat and drink after they killed him. Likewise, the law was abrogated after it was fulfilled by Jesus. Luke 15:17 says, "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot or one tittle to fail." This explains Matthew's statement. Before the law was fulfilled, it was impossible for it to fail; but, after it was fulfilled, it could and would be done away.
Matthew 3:15 does not say that righteousness would be done away, or that it will not pass until all be fulfilled, but his is said of the law. If Christ had said that righteousness would pass away when He was baptized, then it would have, but He did not say that. There are other things contained in "the law" besides the Ten Commandments. Matthew 11:13 teaches, "For all the law and the prophets prophesied until John." Since no prophecies are found in the Decalogue, it must be concluded that "the law" involved more than the Ten Commandments. It is obvious that the law contains the Decalogue and the statutory laws added thereto. Christ did not say, "I am come, not to fulfill, but to perpetuate the law."
Sabbatarians think that Christ said that as long as heaven and earth stand every jot and tittle of the law will stand also. However, if this be correct, the Decalogue is not the law of heaven and earth, for the earth as we have it shall pass away (II Pet. 3:10-13); therefore, the Decalogue will pass away, yet, they say the Ten Commandments will be the law in heaven, therefore, eternal; but, since it will pass away, it is not eternal.
Argument: Acts 18:1-11 states that Paul reasoned in the synagogue and persuaded Jews and Greeks. He stayed there a year and six months, therefore seventy-six Sabbaths passed and Paul preached, not only to the Jews, but to the Gentiles as well. This shows that he taught the Gentiles, to keep the Sabbath along with the Jews. As a result Crispus, a Gentile, believed.
Answer: The advocates of Sabbath-keeping need to find a passage that says Paul observed the Sabbath as a holy day, not where he preached on that day. He also preached on the first, second, and other days of the week, but that does not bind them as the day of worship in the Christian dispensation. If one will read carefully, he will notice that the year and six months Paul preached in Corinth to Jews and Gentiles was after he left the synagogue, and turned from the Jews who kept the Sabbath. If Paul had been trying to enforce the seventh day, he would have stayed with the Jews in the synagogue; Crispus and other Corinthians believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8; I Cor. 1:14), but not in the synagogue. Besides, after this, Paul wrote that the Sabbath was done away (Col. 2:14).
NEGATIVE ARGUMENTS ON SABBATH KEEPING
Galatians 5:4 states in American Standard Version rendition: "Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace." It has been shown that the law of the Lord and the law of Moses are one and the same. Galatians 5:3 says that to keep one point of the law demands keeping all of it, including animal sacrifices, incense, Passover, and temple worship at Jerusalem. If Sabbatarians leave off any part of it, they are guilty of violating every law in the Old Testament (Jas. 2:10). Even if one does keep the Sabbath, he is not only bound to keep all the rest of the law, and even if he observes just one, the Sabbath, he is still fallen from grace, for the seventh day observance was part of the law of Moses. But, Sabbatarians object by saying that if Christians are condemned for keeping the Sabbath, then those who do not observe the seventh day are as bad off as they, for they keep nine-tenths of them. The commands in the New Testament, when referring to morals, always refer to the Ten Commandments.
Sabbatarians fail to distinguish between Code and Principle. Code of laws is a systematic body of laws given statutory force, which means a law made binding by enactment of a sovereign power. A principle is something that is bound whether or not there has ever been any legislative action concerning it. Example, though not written prior to the Ten Commandments, it has always been right to worship God, not idols. It has always been wrong to lie, steal, commit adultery, and murder, for they are principles. Observe the chart that shows that Christ used the nine principles and incorporated them into New Testament law, but He did not so use the Sabbath, for it was never a moral principle, but was bound by a sovereign act of God. Too, you will note that Jesus went beyond the mere command of the Decalogue and gave a deeper, more far-reaching meaning. Instead of just saying "Thou shalt not kill," He forbad the hate that leads to murder. Instead of merely forbidding adultery, He forbad the lust that leads to adultery. Hence, one can see that the Ten Commandments, as a body or code of laws, has been abrogated. The nine principles had been in existence from the beginning, and later God incorporated them into a body or code called the Ten Commandments.
Romans 7:1-7 plainly shows that we are separated from the law that contains the Sabbath. Paul states that a woman who has two living husbands at the same time is in adultery. The application is that if one seeks to be bound by any part of the law of Moses and at the same time be married to Christ, the union is illegal and unscriptural. Nobody can be married to the law of which Paul here speaks and at the same time be joined to Christ. If Christ were to permit Himself to be united with those who insist upon making binding even a part of the law, He would be a spiritual adulterer, which he will not allow.
Romans 7:4 says all are dead to, separated from, the law in order that one may be married to Christ. "That" in this passage is a conjunction of purpose. One eats that he may live. He gets a license that, in order that, he may get married. Therefore, one must be separated from the law that he may be married to Christ. Further, in verse 6 Paul says "Thou shall not covet," (verse 7), which is one of the Ten Commandments, and stands for the whole of the Decalogue.
A WORD ABOUT THE LORD'S DAY
Before this lecture is concluded, it is in order to say a few words about the Lord's day, the first day of the week. A new covenant was promised, not according to the one God gave when Israel was brought out of Egyptian bondage (Jer. 31:31-34). The Decalogue was given then (I Kings 8:9, 21; Neh. 9:13-14). The new is not according to the old, which contained the Sabbath, but a New Covenant containing a New Day. This involved the new man (Eph. 2:15); a new name, Christian (Acts 11:26); a new religion (Gal. 1:13-23); a new covenant (Heb. 8:8-13); a new law (Rom. 8:2); a new mediator (Heb. 8:6; II Tim. 2:5); a new and living way (Heb. 10:20); a new King (Rev. 1:5); a new Priest (Heb. 7:28); a new sacrifice (I Pet. 2:5); and a NEW DAY, the Lord's day (Rev. 1:10). The old day will not fit with all these new things.
reference to the Lord's day and the Lord's supper, there is a
peculiar Greek word modifying both. It is a word that refers only to
and is used only two times in the Bible, and that in the New Testament,
The usual form in both Old and New Testaments is the Greek KURIOS, but
Corinthians 11:20, one finds KURIAKON DEIPNON, "the Lord's supper,"
and in Revelation 1:10, KURIAKE HEM ERA, "the Lord's day." The Lord's
Day of Revelation 1:10 is no more the Lord's Day of the Old Testament
than the Lord's
Supper is the same as the old Passover. From these and multitudes of
references, it can clearly be established that the first day of the
week is the
day on which the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and that
day of worship in the Christian dispensation.