Sabbath Keeping Today?

The Sabbath day, of course, is the seventh day of the week-- "But the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God" (Ex. 20:10). The command to "remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8) was included in the Ten Commandments which were given to the Israelites. These commandments were the basis of the Old or First Covenant.

However, God never intended for physical Israel to always be His exclusive people, nor the Law He gave by Moses to be His final word. Jesus came to establish a spiritual Israel, His church, which would include both Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-22). In Christ we are not the physical, fleshly offspring of Abraham, but the spiritual offspring. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Gal. 3:28-29).

The Law that was given to physical Israel was taken away. It's purpose had been fulfilled in Christ (Mat. 5:17; Rom. 10:4, Gal. 3:24-25). Jesus took away the Old Law, which includes the law of sabbath keeping. "Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col. 2:14). Some say that it was only such things as offerings, sacrifices, and the eating of certain foods, etc., that were taken away. The apostle, however, specifically says sabbath keeping was also included. "Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ" (Col. 2:16-17).

The fact that the Old Covenant was taken away is especially seen in the book of Hebrews. In chapter 9:1-4 the writer speaks of the "first covenant" with its "regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary" which included the "tables of the covenant" (i.e. the Ten Commandments). In the next chapter he explains how the Lord says, "Behold, I have come to do Thy will. He takes away the first in order to establish the second" (Heb. 10:9). He had already stated that Jesus "is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second" (Heb. 8:7-8).

The fact the Old Law with its Ten Commandments is taken away does not mean that we have no law, we are just no longer under the Law given through Moses. We are now under Christ's law. God "in these last day has spoken to us in His Son..." (Heb. 1:2). What has been spoken through Him is called "the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). In this New Law or Covenant many of the same principles of the Old Covenant are included. However, many things are excluded, such as the offerings, sacrifices, sabbath keeping, etc.. Also, we find there are several commands included in the New Covenant that were not in the Old. For example, baptism for the forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:38), the command to give on the first day of the week (1Cor. 16:2), the command to partake of the Lord's supper (1Cor. 11:23-26: Acts 20:7,) etc. The Old law condemned murder; the law of Christ goes further to condemn hate (Matt. 5:21-22, cf. also adultery, false swearing, Matt. 5:27-37).

The apostles went to the synagogues on the Sabbath. However, it was not to observe the sabbath law, but to preach the gospel of Christ and His New Covenant to those who were gathered. The divine example we have concerning when we as Christians are to meet and worship is the first day of the week, the day Christ was raised from the dead. The first gospel sermon was preached on the first day of the week, Pentecost being fifty days after the Sabbath (Acts 2). The Scriptures also tell us the disciples met on the first day of the week to partake of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7). It was on this day they were to give as they had prospered (1Cor. 6:2). It is the first day of the week, not the seventh, that has significance for the people of God today.

By Paul Smithson

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