Keeping the Sabbath

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Keeping the Sabbath

James R. Aist

“For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” – Jesus

There seems to be some confusion within the modern Christian community concerning the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). We cannot just ignore this commandment, since it is the Fourth of the Ten Commandments, but do we have to follow it, like the Old Testament Jews did? Let’s see if the New Testament provides clear instructions concerning this question.

Jesus’ Teachings

In Matthew 12:8, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” The clear implication here is that whatever Jesus said about the Sabbath is true and allowable for all, regardless of prevailing Jewish tradition. Jesus also said that “…it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12).” It would seem to follow, then, that “doing good” would include enjoying the blessings and favor of God on the Sabbath and giving Him praise and glory for them. And, in Mark 2:27, Jesus declared that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, the Sabbath was given to benefit man, not to rule over him. Thus, healing the sick, tending livestock, and harvesting grain (to use some of the examples used against Jesus to charge him with breaking the Law), as well as doing any “good” thing, such as teaching in the synagogue (Luke 13:10 and Acts 18:4), are allowed on the Sabbath.

Paul’s Teachings

In Colossians 2:14-21, Paul wrote: “He blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us and contrary to us, and He took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed authorities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore let no one judge you regarding food, or drink, or in respect of a holy day or new moon or Sabbath days. These are shadows of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone cheat you of your reward by delighting in false humility and the worship of angels, dwelling on those things which he has not seen, vainly arrogant due to his unspiritual mind,  and not supporting the head, from which the entire body, nourished and knit together by joints and sinews, grows as God gives the increase. Therefore, if you died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you subject yourself to legalistic rules?  “Do not touch! Do not taste! Do not handle!” These all are to perish with use and are aligned with the commandments and doctrines of men (Italics mine).” Read carefully and you will see three key and telling points made here: 1) Jesus nailed to the cross the traditional, Jewish requirements re. the Sabbath; 2) the traditional, Jewish requirements re. the Sabbath were mere shadows of things to come, so they perished after they had served their purpose among the Old Testament Jews (i.e., when Jesus, who is the substance of these requirements, appeared); and 3) the Sabbath requirements are no longer in effect for those who are in Christ Jesus, including both Jews and Gentiles; they have expired.

Conclusions

So, are we required to follow the practices of the Old Testament Jews concerning the Sabbath? The biblical answer is, emphatically, “No!” [For the record, this is why the New Testament church felt free to change the “worship day” of the Christian church from Saturday to Sunday (Acts 20:7)]. But, does this mean that we should ignore the Sabbath entirely? I don’t think so. God established the seventh day as a day of rest for mankind (Exodus 20:9-10 and 23:12), and as such, a weekly Sabbath would certainly serve us well, in accord with Mark 2:27, and it would be exercising wisdom. Moreover, the Judaic and Christian practice of gathering for worship on the day of rest is a way of obeying Hebrews 10:25 which says, “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching.” So, let us remember the Sabbath by observing a weekly day of much-needed rest and by assembling together regularly to give God all the glory that is due Him. As Christians, these two practices should be our custom.

(To read more of my biblically based articles, click HERE.)

Are Christians Bound by Old Testament Laws?

Ten Commandments

Are Christians Bound by Old Testament Laws?

 James   R. Aist

 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:17)

Introduction

I don’t know about you, but, until recently, I have not had a well-informed response to unbelievers who say that Christians are hypocrites, because they do not obey all of the biblical laws, but selectively disobey many of the Old Testament laws while insisting that everyone should obey the others. How would you respond to such a charge? Are unbelievers correct in making this accusation, or are there biblically sound reasons why Christians are not bound by some of the laws prescribed in the Old Testament?

Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert on this topic, but I have studied it enough to be able to provide what I believe to be a valid and reliable overview and to point you to some additional resources (links) that will enable you to study this question to your personal satisfaction and draw your own conclusions, if you are so inclined. So, let’s jump right into it.

Categories of Old Testament Laws

While the Bible does not formally and explicitly list categories of Old Testament laws, it is possible for us to recognize and define, in retrospect, three categories of them. This exercise reminds me of the way in which we recognize the biblical doctrine of the trinity, even though the Bible does not directly and specifically name and list it as a defined doctrine. Therefore, I am reasonably certain that this is a valid, biblical approach to this topic.

There appears to be widespread – albeit not at all unanimous – consensus on the following categories of Old Testament laws:

1) Civil Laws – Ancient Israel was a theocracy, in which God himself, through the Jewish religious establishment, provided the civil laws and their enforcement that were necessary for justice and order to prevail in that culture. This represents the legal system of the Jewish theocracy. Therefore, these were the laws comprising the criminal code, and they prescribed the punishment for various crimes, such as murder, adultery and theft. Because there is no longer a biblical theocracy in existence anywhere, these laws do not apply to anyone, including Christians. That is not to say, of course, that Christians are allowed to murder, commit adultery and steal. It just means that those particular laws were established as part of a theocracy that no longer exists, and that one has to look elsewhere in the Bible to find laws that are binding in today’s world;

2) Ceremonial Laws – Often referred to as the “Mosaic Law”, these laws provided the Jews of ancient Israel a temporary process by which their sins could be covered and they could be made, or kept, “clean”. They were a representation, or type, of something better and permanent that was to come at the appointed time. These laws included such things as animal sacrifices to cover sins, mandatory observance of religious festivals, various restrictions on food and washing of the hands before eating. When the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, appeared, He become the perfect, sufficient, final and effective sacrifice for all of the sins of mankind. By dying on the cross to pay the price for our sins, Jesus replaced the ceremonial laws, rendering them obsolete, unnecessary and ineffectual. Therefore, Christians are not bound by these Old Testament laws, and, in fact, are instructed in the Bible to not practice them; and finally…

3) Moral Laws – These laws are distinct from the “Mosaic Law” and are the biblical laws that establish and define how we are to behave toward God and toward each other. They are most notably embodied in the Ten Commandments, but are to be found also in other biblical instructions and commandments, especially as laid out in the New Testament. Examples include laws against idolatry, murder, adultery, fornication, the practice of homosexuality, stealing, lying, gossip, slander, drunkenness etc. In considering the extent of the moral laws, it is important to keep in mind that the Bible does not mention, specifically, many of the sins that people are capable of, such as child sexual abuse and wife beating, but it is not difficult to recognize that such things violate Jesus’ new commandment to “love one another” and are, therefore, sinful. The Bible presents these laws as permanent and applicable to everyone, including Christians. They have not been replaced nor have they expired. Rather, they are universally valid and binding forever. One notable exception is that the Fourth of the Ten Commandments – to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy – expired at the first coming of Jesus (click HERE)

Concluding Remarks

I hope that this brief discussion of Old Testament laws and the Christian will be informative and useful to you. If you would like to read a more comprehensive treatment of this subject, please select an article listed below and click on the link provided. I particularly recommend the series by Morrison (1997) for detailed study.

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)

 

Recommended Resources for Bible References and Further Study:

A) More-or-less brief articles

Wright, C.J.H. 2013. Learning to love Leviticus. (click HERE)

Kretzmann, P.E. 1924. The Difference Between the Moral and the Ceremonial Law.  (click HERE)

Phillips, R.D. 2000. Which Old Testament Laws Must I Obey? (click HERE)

B) More in-depth, comprehensive resources

Anonymous. 2007. The Ten Commandments and the Ceremonial Law (Mosaic Law). (click HERE)

Morrison, M. 1997. Which Old Testament Laws Apply to Christians Today? (click HERE)