Why change the day?
Why the change away from the sabbath? An incident when Jesus was with his disciples provides an important indication of a fundamental change in the covenant.
“At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.” Matthew 12:1,2
The incident referred to is narrated in 1 Samuel 21, and we need to note certain details of the story so that we can see why the incident could be used to explain the disciples’ gathering of corn on the sabbath day.
“Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee? And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place. Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present. And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women. And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel. So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.” 1 Samuel 21:1-6
The significant statement is the last sentence, which provides the reason why David was able to take the bread. For the bread was about to be replaced by a new lot, and was therefore of no further use to the priest. Although the loaves had been holy, they no longer were, because they were about to be replaced. And so we can see its application to the circumstances surrounding the disciples eating the corn on the sabbath. Technically they were erring against the Law, but it was excusable, because that Law was about to be superseded by a new and better one, which was to make the sabbath day redundant. The new bread, the ‘bread of life’, was about to replace the old.
A fading Law.
Of great importance to the subject is a New Testament passage in which Paul argues that the Ten Commandments, as such, represented “a ministration of death, written and engraven in stones… which was to be done away” (2 Corinthians 2:7). One cannot but conclude that the sabbath was part of that which was “written and engraven in stones”. Paul’s comment was that the children of Israel “could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished” (v13).
Can sabbath-keepers today recognise the truth of this statement, or are they like those of whom Paul mentioned that could not recognise an end of an era? This passage is a very powerful, unambiguous, testimony against the belief that the Sabbath is binding today.
This replacement of the Law is emphasised frequently by the apostles in the New Testament. Take, for instance,
“For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Hebrews 7:12
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Romans 10:4
Jesus had illustrated these changes.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said… But I say unto you…”
In this way, and in his teaching, Jesus affirmed and amplified nine of the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment, relating to the sabbath, was the only one not reaffirmed by Jesus. Neither did any of the apostles reaffirm it. So nowhere in the New Testament is the Christian commanded to observe the sabbath.
- 1. The first Sabbath
- 2. Covernant with Israel, Resting, A New Experience
- 3. The Covernant, Correct Context, Was the Sabbath Shifted?
- 4. Why Change the Day, A Fading Law
- 5. Holy Days, Cermonial and Moral Law
- 6. Keeping the Sabbath, Giving up the Law
- 7. A Pedegogue, Fulfilment of the Law
- 8. Freedom in Christ, Paul and the Sabbath, Sunday as the Sabbath?