Keeping the sabbath.
But, it might be asked, ‘What harm there would be if I continued to observe the sabbath?’ Let me explain by quoting the words of Paul:
“Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” Galatians 4:11,12
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:4
Admittedly in this last passage Paul is describing those who demand the contin-uation of the law by insisting on circumcision, but in the context of the whole letter he is merely using the argument of circumcision to illustrate his principle; he could have used the sabbath with equal validity. For the principle remains the same:
“Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:2-4
By arguing that the Mosaic Law (the Torah, which includes the Ten Command-ments) given at Sinai is still binding today in effect rejects faith in Jesus Christ. Why? Because this view rejects the fact that Jesus Christ (Heb: Messiah) fulfilled the law, and in so doing, paved the way for God to terminate it. To persons who profess to be Christians, but who are persuaded by arguments in favour of keeping the law, or some portion of it, the apostle Paul was able to write as forcefully as he did (Galatians 5:2-4, above).
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Romans 10:4
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul speaks about those who justify themselves in or by means of the law. If one believes in justification in or through the law, one leaves no room for Jesus Christ and his grace. A modern translation puts it this way:
“Those of you who try to earn God’s approval by obeying his laws have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen out of God’s favor..” Galatians 5:4 GWT version.
In other words, believers of the Law were cut off from Christ, not that they belonged to him at any time; they were never his. The verb translated as ‘fell’ in that verse, means ‘to fall off’. It does not mean that they lost the grace of God that was their’s at one time, but that they were off the path of grace since they chose justification by law instead of justification by grace.
“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.” Galatians 3:10,11
If there was justification by keeping the law, and proving one’s self righteous by such works, then there would have been no need for Jesus Christ – there would be no value in his sacrifice. Sure, it is important that we do works in obedience to the commands of God and his Son (Matthew 28:19,20; John 15:14), for they demonstrate our love and faith; lack of these factors would indicate that our faith was dead. But we cannot earn salvation no matter how hard we work. No salvation from sin and death would be possible without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:9,10
Giving up the Law.
Naturally, the early followers of Christ were hesitant in abandoning the Law, which had become institutionalised in their lifestyle throughout more than 1000 years of history. The record of Acts 15 relates the reserve held by some early Christians against the abandonment of the law as given to Moses. So the apostles and elders sent a letter to those “subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law; to whom we gave no such commandment”, stating “the necessary things” to be retained. These “necessary things” were “that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication” (Acts 15:29), all things that pre-dated the Ten Commandments and the Law given to Moses (refer for example to Genesis 9:3,4; 34:2-7; 35:2-5). Note particularly that the observance of the sabbath was not listed as one of the “necessary things” to retain!
When Jesus died, his will (or testament) came into force, and so the Jews them-selves no longer had to conform to the Mosaic Law, but were able to be accepted under the law of Christ. The Jews were especially thankful, for until then they had been violators of the Law covenant, and his dying as an accursed criminal obtained freedom from that Law that they couldn’t keep. The Law knew nothing of forgive-ness: it provided only death. This was the message that Paul gave to the Jews in the synagogue as recorded in Acts 13.
“Be it known therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:38,39
The Law had, in fact, fenced the Jews off from the Gentiles [i.e. non-Jews]. Requirements that did not apply to Gentiles were laid on the Jews, and uncircumcised Gentiles were barred from sharing worship with the Jews.
“Ye know that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” Acts 10:28,29
Once the Law was removed it was possible for Jews and Gentiles to be united through Christ in worship of the only true God.
“For he… hath made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to make in himself of twain one new man… for through him we both have access by the one Spirit unto the Father.” Ephesians 2:14, 15,18
- 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?