Should We Keep The Sabbath?
Didn't Jesus teach obedience to the Law of Moses in Matthew 5?
When Did the Law Pass Away?
When the Law Passed Away - Did that include the Sabbath?
The Jerusalem Decree
Was The Sabbath Instituted Prior to Moses?
What about the Early Christians - what did they do?
Jesus plainly taught during his earthly ministry that the Jews should keep the Law of Moses. It was the Law of God to the Jew - even during the time that Jesus lived. Consider the book of Nehemiah and the descriptions it makes of the "Law"
What is the difference between "destroying" and "fulfilling"? The word translated destroy (kataluo) means the same as to "demolish". The word translated fulfill (pleroo) can mean to satisfy, finish, end, etc.
An "end" is still implied, but a different kind of an "end". To demolish, or destroy, would imply a destruction of the purpose and goals of the law. To fulfill it implies a completion of the goals and purposes of the law. The goal of the law was to bring man to a right relationship with God (and therefore provide "life") - as Paul said about the Law:
As Paul said about the current state of the Law after the death of Jesus:
Notice back in Matthew 5:18 that "heaven and earth shall not pass away... from the law till all is fulfilled." Some have taught that the law will not pass away until the "earth" does. However, what the text says is that it would not pass away until it was fulfilled. In other words, its purpose will not be destroyed. It would continue until its purpose was fulfilled - which is what Jesus came to do. Since its purpose was completed in Jesus, Paul would speak of the Law as the schoolmaster, that we are no longer under (Gal 3:25).
Prior to the death of Jesus, the Law of Moses was still in effect, and Jesus taught adherence to it. He taught that he did not come to destroy it, but to fulfill it. After his death the Apostles taught that Christians were no longer bound by it. Paul taught that it was nailed to the cross of Jesus:
Some teach that the "handwriting of ordinances" was the "ceremonial law" and not the "moral law". That phrase "handwriting of ordinances" is simply a way of referring to the law given by the hand of Moses as was spoken of in second Chronicles:
What part of the law did NOT come by the hand of Moses? Is there a distinction being made here about one part of the law and not another? Paul certainly did not make this distinction. When he spoke of the Law, he spoke of it as including the 10 commandments and argues that the Christian is freed from it. Consider Romans 7 and the arguments that Paul makes...
Just a few verses later, as Paul deals with the natural question that since we have been delivered from the Law, is the Law therefore bad? (Rom. 7:7 "... Is the law sin?") When he explains that this is the wrong conclusion, he explains "Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law." When he identifies HOW the Law identified sin he speaks specifically of the 10 commandments and uses one of them as an example:
He identifies the shortcoming of the Law is really its inability to overcome the nature of mankind -- (Rom 7:14 NKJV) "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin." The state of man therefore under the Law was "sold under sin". The problem then is that the Law could not take away sin (Heb 10:4 NKJV) For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.) In this state then (i.e. "under the Law"), Paul would cry out "(Rom 7:24 NKJV) O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" -- with the answer being "through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:25) since Christ brings deliverance from the Law (Rom. 7:6) AND deliverance from sin (Rom 8:3 NKJV) For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: ..."
Further evidence is provided in the Galatian letter where Paul taught that we who are Christians have been "redeemed from the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13)." He stated that those who keep one part of the Law are obligated to keep the entire Law:
Now, when he states in chapter 3 that we are redeemed from the curse, is he speaking of only a portion of the Law (i.e. the Ceremonial Law)? Certainly not - from the context it can be seen that when he quotes in Galatians 3:10 the "curse" of the Law - he quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 where the portion of the Law under consideration includes the "moral law" (i.e. the 10 commandments). First consider the statement of Paul:
Consider the context of Deuteronomy 27:26 where a series of curses is commanded against those who do not keep the law - and what is under consideration includes the 10 commandments!
Therefore it is clear that Paul speaks of the Christian as having been redeemed from "the Law" - not a "portion" of the Law, but the entire Law. This principle is illustrated when Paul recounts how when he went up to Jerusalem, Titus was not required to be circumcised:
Now since Paul taught that the Law (embodied in the 10 commandments, not limited to these, but certainly INCLUSIVE of these - since he used one of the 10 commandments as an example of "the Law" in Rom. 7:7) was no longer binding to the Christian, it was therefore improper for the Jewish Christians to attempt to bind it on the Gentiles who were pressing into the church. Some were contentious and wanted to bind a portion of the Law (i.e. circumcision - "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved", Acts 15:1) and therefore the council of Apostles was convened to deal with the question. The resolution stated by Peter was that the Law of Moses should not be bound on Gentile Christians -- (Acts 15:10 NKJV) "Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" Now the "circumcision" was not something which they were not "able to bear", but one who accepted circumcision, was under obligation to keep the entire Law -- (Gal 5:3 KJV) "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law." Now Paul is not talking about just the act of circumcision, but the attempt to be justified by circumcision - which is what some of the Jews were teaching - "Unless you are circumcised ... you cannot be saved"
An interesting part of this proceeding was that not even Sabbath-Keeping was given to the Gentiles as part of the Jerusalem decree.
Some have argued that Sabbath-keeping was instituted by God long before the Law of Moses and therefore even when the Law of Moses was taken away, the Sabbath Law still remained. However, it would be expected that this should have been covered by the Jerusalem decree. The other things mentioned, certainly did predate the Law of Moses - such as not eating blood -- (Gen 9:4 KJV) "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."
Was Sabbath-keeping an institution prior to the giving of the Law of Moses? A quick look at a concordance will tell you that the first mention of the Sabbath was in Exodus 16:23 by the words of Moses as Israel was on their way to Sinai. But some argue that the seventh day was "sanctified" by God in Genesis chapter 2 -- (Gen 2:3 KJV) "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." The question therefore that needs to be addressed is "when did God sanctify the Sabbath?" Nehemiah answers this question:
This is consistent with the other information that we have about the Israelites as they left Egypt. On the occasion in Exodus 16, where the Sabbath is first mentioned, is recorded the concern of the leaders when on the sixth day the people gathered a double portion of the manna, and Moses had to explain (Exodus 16:23) about the Sabbath. This is a new experience for them, something they had to be convinced of. He is not here reminding them of something that they had known for many years, but giving the Sabbath command as Nehemiah said. Can reminding someone of something they already know be referred to as making "known unto them"? The Bible is consistent throughout on this matter.
Ezekiel also testifies about the matter:
How would the "sabbaths" be a sign between the Jews and God, if it had been given to all men from the beginning? Some argue that the "sabbaths" here are the ceremonial sabbaths OTHER than the 7th-day Sabbath since it is plural. However, it should be noted that the word is used in the plural sense to include the 7th-day Sabbath in Exodus:
Now this fits perfectly with the statements of Paul after he stated that the Old Law was taken out of the way by Jesus ((Col 2:14 KJV) Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;), when he said to the Colossians not to let anyone judge them because of not keeping the Sabbath:
Which "Sabbath"? The plain and obvious meaning is ALL of the Sabbaths. Some want to quibble and say that this is not the 7th-day Sabbath, but ONLY the OTHER Sabbaths. However the plural usage is consistent with the plain and obvious meaning (just as in Exodus 31:13-14) and just as Paul included the 10 commandments as part of "the Law" in Romans 7:7, so this passage is consistent as well - i.e. if the Law of Moses is done away with, then so is the Sabbaths (all of them) that were commanded under the Law.
That the Sabbath was instituted by Moses is also witnessed to by the early Christian writer Justin Martyr.
We know from Acts 20:7 that the early Christians met on the first day of the week:
This appears to be a pattern, and not just a one-time meeting - so that when Paul instructs the churches to "give", he urges them to do it on the first day of the week:
Now if they were already meeting on the first day of the week, this would not require a separate coming together, but would be done as part of the assembly which would already be gathered. If not, then it would require a separate gathering - which was the express purpose of the author to avoid!
Pliny, the Younger, in writing concerning the Christians, stated that their testimony about themselves was this:
While this account does not mention the day, it does demonstrate that a certain day was determined and practiced (presumably the same day as practiced by the Apostles).
Ignatius [A.D. 30-107.] wrote about Christian observance of the Sabbath
A little later in Justin Martyr's writings ... (in his first Apology) ...
(Justin Martyr [A.D. 110-165.] Justin was a Gentile, but born in Samaria, near Jacob's well.)
Also, in his dialogue with Trypho, a Jew
Justin, on when the Sabbath regulations were instituted ...
Justin, on the Gentile converts who do not keep the Sabbath ...
Justin, again on when the Sabbath was instituted ...
The early Christian testimony is in accordance with what the apostles taught in the New Testament. If Jewish Christians kept the Sabbath, it was undoubtedly because they were Jewish, NOT because they were Christians.
David A. Duncan
Take me to the "Sabbath Keepers Refuted" website!