Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There seems to be some discussion nowadays about the Sabbath commandment.
We should be clear that Sunday is not the Sabbath Day. Sunday is not the seventh day of the week but the first day. The Lord Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, on Sunday. This is why we celebrate Easter on Sunday.
When we insist that Christians must obey God by not working on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, we reveal that we do not understand the new covenant. The new covenant does repeat some of the Old Testament commands, such as “You shall not steal” (“He who has been stealing must steal no longer”). However, to my knowledge it does not repeat the Sabbath command.
But whether or not the New Testament repeats any part of the Ten Commandments is not the issue. The issue is that our relationship to Christ under the new covenant is entirely different from our relationship to God under the Law of Moses. There is no part of the Law of Moses that applies to the Christian.
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6)
Our release from the authority of the Ten Commandments is explained carefully by the Apostle Paul in the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans.
Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.
So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.
So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. (Romans 7:1-4)
The Law of Moses has authority over people only as long as they are alive on the earth. It has no authority over people who have died and now are in the spirit world.
If we are married to Christ, and still are married to Moses, we are an adulteress.
If we claim to have been crucified with Christ, the Law of Moses no longer has any authority over us whatsoever.
We have “died to the Law through the body of Christ” so that we might be legally free to be married to Christ and therefore are no longer married to the Law. We are not an adulteress by doing so. Now we are free to bear fruit to God.
Dying to the Law through the body of Christ means that Christ kept the intent of the Law of Moses perfectly, even though the Pharisees accused Him unjustly. By faith we died with Him and rose with Him. Therefore the Law of Moses no longer can condemn us.
We do not steal, not because of the Ten Commandments but because the New Testament and the Spirit of God forbid this. We do not live an immoral life, not because of the Ten Commandments but because the New Testament and the Spirit of God forbid this.
The Old Testament is filled with wisdom that guides us until the Day Star, Christ, rises in our heart and directs us. We do not walk hand in hand with Moses but with the Lord Jesus Christ.
If we were bound by the Ten Commandments as such, we would have to be able to slaughter an animal to atone for any transgression. We have a different atonement, made through the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are answerable to Him, not to Moses, for the righteousness and holiness of our behavior.
The Ten Commandments guide us as we read them and attempt to obey them. We always fail because of our sinful nature. We might not do any work on Saturday; but if we break any other of the commandments, having some person or thing that we love more than God, for example, or taking the Lord’s name in vain, then, according to the Apostle James, we are guilty of breaking the entire Law.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)
In the seventh chapter of Romans, Paul spoke of the ineffectiveness of the Law when the believer desires not to sin:
Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. (Romans 7:9,10)
The intent of the Ten Commandments, as is true of all of the statutes and injunctions of the Law of Moses, is to bring life.
Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess. (Deuteronomy 5:33)
But because of the sin dwelling in us, the Law succeeded in making our sin more sinful with the result that we were alienated from God and died spiritually.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. (Romans 7:21-23)
Paul is not speaking here of his life as a Christian but as Jew attempting to please God by keeping the Law of Moses.
If the believers would read carefully the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans they would not talk any more about the need for not working on the seventh day, or circumcision, or literally observing the seven major feasts of the Jews, or the dietary regulations. All of these observances point toward Christ and are fulfilled spiritually in Him.
In the next chapter, Chapter Eight, Paul tells of a new law, “the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.” This law takes the place of the Law of Moses.
Paul tells us that we can turn away from Moses and look to Christ and still be without condemnation. This teaching is of immense importance to Jewish people.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1,2)
The “law of sin and death” is the Ten Commandments interacting with our sinful nature.
The Law of the Spirit of Life sets us free from the law of sin and death in two major ways. First, our sins are forgiven through the blood of the cross. Second, the Spirit points out the sins we are committing and gives us the wisdom and authority to put them to death.
God realized that the Ten Commandments were powerless to accomplish His, will because of our sinful nature.
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. (Romans 8:3)
The following verse is of special importance because Christian people have been taught that we no longer have to obey Moses and therefore are free to do as we please because we are “saved by grace.”
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)
Does the verse above sound to you like we are free to misbehave because we are saved by grace? It doesn’t sound that way to me either.
Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross we can receive the benefit of His total obedience to the Law of Moses. However, for this to be true we have to cease living according to our sinful nature but in continual obedience to the Spirit of God.
Whenever Paul contrasted “works” and “faith,” he was not saying we are saved by believing in Christ and not by living righteously. Paul was contrasting the works of the Law of Moses with our taking up our cross and following Jesus each day.
The works of the Law!
To understand Paul to mean that if we say we believe in Jesus we do not have to live righteously is Satan’s own doctrine. This misunderstanding has kept the Christian people spiritually immature. They are as babies, wondering whether or not they should work on Saturday. They are keeping the Sabbath by going to church on Sunday (they think), and obey their sinful nature the remainder of the week.
It may be true that we are in theologic confusion today.
Paul declared plainly that the new covenant is not one of the letter but of the Spirit:
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (II Corinthians 3:6)
As the Apostle Paul taught us in the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans, the Ten Commandments interacts with our sinful nature in such a manner that we are “killed,” that is, alienated from God because of our knowledge that we are disobeying Him and powerless to do anything about it.
It reminds us of Adam and Eve, doesn’t it. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the Law of God at that time. Eating of the Tree alienated them from God.
But the Spirit brings us reconciliation to God and eternal life. Our sins are forgiven through the blood of the cross. The Seed of God has been planted in us and we are born again. We are baptized with the Spirit and the Spirit dwells eternally in us. We are given the body and blood of Christ, His resurrection Life, to eat and drink.
We walk in fellowship every day with the Lord Jesus. Every day is holier than the preceding. Saturday is more holy than Friday. Sunday is more holy than Saturday. Monday is more holy than Sunday. We are pressing forward into the holiness of Christ at all times every day of the year.
The Spirit of God keeps filling our inner nature with eternal Life; and shall continue to do so until the Lord Jesus comes and fills our mortal body with eternal life, the very Life of the risen Christ.
The central topic of the Book of Hebrews is the rest of God. All the other topics of the Book of Hebrews are influenced by this goal.
The rest of God is our Canaan, our land of promise. It is the state of being where we cease from our own works and look to the Lord Jesus for everything we think, say, and do.
Notice the intent of the Sabbath commandment:
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
Then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 58:13,14)
The above is a perfect description of the rest of the Lord, mentioned in the fourth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. The difference from the Sabbath Day of the Jews is that the true rest of the new covenant is in effect at all times, every hour of every day of every week. It is the presenting of our body as a living sacrifice, as Paul commanded.
If we are living in the rest of God we are to cease from our own works, from doing as we please. We are to delight ourselves in doing the Lord’s will in every circumstance of life.
The emphasis of the Sabbath commandment is on not doing as we please. This is to be true of us at all times. We are to be seeking Christ so that we are living by every Word that comes from the mouth of God and is directed toward us as an individual.
If we thus find joy in doing Christ’s will He will cause us to ride on the high places of righteousness, love, joy, and peace.
Paul, in the Book of Galatians, took the Judaizers to task who were attempting to force the Law of Moses on the early Christians. The principal issue was that of circumcision. I would think that circumcision would be as important as Sabbath keeping, wouldn’t you?
But notice what Paul said:
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:2,3)
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:2,3)
As far as the Sabbath Day being especially holy, under the new covenant no day is more holy than others. There is no New Testament basis for any day being particularly holy.
For a day or an action to be holy, it must be ordained of God. When Christ healed the sick on the Sabbath, that action was holy because it was ordained of God. When the disciples harvested grain on the Sabbath, that action was holy because they were following Christ and were hungry.
When David ate the showbread, the showbread being more holy than the Sabbath in that it was within the Holy Place of the Tabernacle where no ordinary person could enter, David’s action was holy because he was doing God’s will at that time.
Every time I think of the ruler of the synagogue being angry because Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath Day I realize the awful difference that exists between religion and walking hand in hand with Jesus. The Pharisees should have been rejoicing over this good deed. How true it is that religion so often perverts common sense.
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.
When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” (Luke 13:10-14)
A woman crippled for eighteen years, and all the ruler of the synagogue could think of was that she was healed on the Sabbath Day.
Those who have a religious spirit will embrace the keeping of the Sabbath Day because it is something they can do without looking to God on each occasion. They are worshiping what is written instead of worshiping the Writer, Christ.
God has told us that the best thing we can do to please Him is to practice justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. When we do these three things we flow with God’s will and are pleasing to Him. This is the highest form of worship.
You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
As I stated at the beginning, if we marry Christ but still are not divorced from Moses, we are an adulteress.
(“The Sabbath”, 3177-1)