The Sabbath and Faith of Abraham
When I first became a Christian, I had been persuaded into the sabbathkeeping branch of the church, having been impressed by Herbert Armstrong’s teachings, particularly his readings of Revelation and other prophecy. Some of their other teachings concerned me, including the closed exclusive nature of the Worldwide Church of God under his leadership, so I did not join or fellowship there. I attended Seventh Day Adventist lectures in their Manhattan bookstore, which were interesting, as they focused a lot on prophecy as well. But some of their teachings were suspicious as well. Yet I was still persuaded that the Sabbath was still obligatory. After all, it is one of the 10 Commandments I kept hearing about from "religious people"; and even before I had accepted Christ, when I was being drawn and looking through the Bible to see what it was all about, I was struck that the fourth commandment mandated worship and rest on the seventh day, not the first. How could all of these preachers, who emphasize the Commandments (with a special focus on the seventh!), and scream about their removal from schools and other public places totally disregard the fourth? To break one is to break all and become a transgressor of the whole Law, James tells us (2:10, 11). I did meet there a brother who was not a Sabbathkeeper, and he showed me from several of Paul's epistles, but especially Galatians 3:23-25, where he shows that Christ was the "end" [goal] of the Law, which was our "schoolmaster" to bring us to Christ. The Sabbath and many other commands were themselves "shadows" of God's true intents for Christian living.
So after a lot of studying the Bible, praying, and talking to other Christians, I learned that the Sabbath command has been fulfilled. Jesus said that the Law would not pass away until it was fulfilled (Matth.5:17,18). Now you understand how the sacrifices and all the other rituals were fulfilled by Christ. They were given for reasons. They all had spiritual intentions that were met (fulfilled) by Jesus Christ, so now you no longer have to keep them. They were only types. But the same is true with the Sabbaths and dietary laws. They too were only TYPES of spiritual things. They were given for specific purposes, and if those purposes—the spiritual intents are met by Christ, then like the sacrifices, the physical practice of these laws is no longer binding.
As all Sabbathkeepers point out, the Sabbath was given to give man rest. But Jesus said "Come unto ME...and I will give you rest...you shall find rest for your souls"(Matt.11:28,29). So the physical rest was a type of the spiritual rest—Jesus. He is our Sabbath. And every day is the "Lord's Day". (He made them all didn’t He? If you say that His presence is NOT in every day, and that other days belong to pagan gods, —As Armstrong has said; then you're the one who's honoring those pagan gods as lords!) Every day is a day to worship— honoring God as Creator. And the weekly Sabbath also pointed forward to God's rest, in His Kingdom, which Hebrews ch.4 was referring to. Verse 9 does at first appear to be a command for Christian Sabbath observance, but when you really study it, and note verses like v.1-3 and 11, which says that this rest is something we must labor to enter, and that the Israelites had not entered it (because of unbelief, even though they had the literal sabbath day), and the contrast with the literal seventh day formerly "spoken of" (v.4), then you'll see that it is talking about the final reward—the spiritual antitype of the "promised land". For now, it is also the "rest" we have in Jesus, whereby we "cease from [our] own works, as God did from His" (v.10) Notice, it is not cease from work (literal), but WORKS, signifying trying to be justified by keeping the Law. This is a far cry from the way the sabbathkeepers often make the "hardship" of having to plead with the boss or leave or lose jobs over the sabbath and not knowing what to do (which I myself went through) the whole merit of it, citing all the scriptures on "trusting God", "God will take care of you", "suffering is good for us", etc that the Sundaykeeping "abundant life" teachers also use, (and while the leaders have all their needs more than met by the Church organization!) But this should further show that the sabbath was not mandatory in the New testament, because think of all those Gentiles who would begin having to keep it, with unconverted masters not honoring it, and forcing them to work, as well as them keeping it wrong, being too restrictive, too liberal, etc, and needing correction from the apostles as we see with every single other commandment. But any such instruction or mention is deafeningly absent. Yet sabbathkeepers insist "well, that was because they all knew about it", and "not everthing is mentioned". With that reasoning, they essentially advocate an "oral (unwritten) apostolic tradition" like the Catholics. But the Catholics have more evidence (from the postapostolic church) of any such "tradition" including Sunday among other things, than the sabbathkeepers do for the sabbath. So they shouldn't try that route. Of course, there is always the massive Sunday conspiracy theory where it was all deliberately stamped out within 100 years. But that is pure conjecture and lacks any historical evidence. They can produce a few mentions of people keeping it (but usually along with Sunday as well), but no evidence for any wholesale abandonment of one day in favor of another.
The Sabbaths and Dietary Laws were Shadows of the True Spiritual Law
Armstrong and other annual Sabbath(Holy Day) keepers repeatedly point
out that the 7 annual Sabbaths picture and were given to remind God's
people of His plan of Salvation—Christ's death, sanctification, the calling
of the Church, the Second Coming, the binding of Satan, the Millennial Kingdom,
and the final judgement and eternal Kingdom. But anyone who is led by
the Word and Spirit of God automatically knows the plan of God. He reads
about it all right in the Bible. He centers his whole life on it. It's the
main focus of his praise and worship of God. So he does not have to keep
days to remind him of this wonderful plan. For instance— the removal of
leaven from the home picturing the removal of sin from our lives. Come on
now, anyone who reads the Bible and is led by the Holy Spirit automatically
knows to put sin out of his life. And when he does that, he fulfills the
spiritual intent of the unleavened bread commandment, and no longer needs
to keep the physical demands of the commandment. That was just a CEREMONY
God gave to the carnal non-spiritual Israelites because of their sin
(Gal.3:19). Paul clearly shows this in 1 Cor. 5:7,8 "Therefore, purge out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, since YOU are truly unleavened. For indeed, Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast...". Lawkeepers take this as a positive clear command for Christians to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the letter, yet here in the context, we see the spirit of the law is what is being commanded. Continuing: "...not with...the leaven of malice and wickedness (i.e. sin), but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth". And read 2 Cor.6:17 "Touch not the unclean thing", and 1Pet.1:15, "Be ye holy for I am holy". Here the apostles quote OT commands which
referred to unclean meats, but now (as the contexts show) their spiritual
intent is to avoid unclean behavior and people. If you do that, then you've
fulfilled the laws of clean and unclean. The behavior of the types of
animals that were labeled unclean typified the type of people and behavior
God's people were to avoid. The second century Epistle of Barnabas ch.10 expounded this principle, and while he was not inspired, we can see the principle in Peter's vision in Acts 10. Lawkeepers make much of the fact that the unclean meats he was told to kill and eat symbolized Gentiles (who were viewed as "unclean", but now being "cleaned"), and think this escapes the implication that the ban on those animals was abolished. But right there, the pairing of Gentiles with unclean animals shows us the spiritual meaning of clean and unclean, just as Pseudo-Barnabas would elaborate. No, this passage in itself was not saying literal unclean animals were what were "cleaned" in the vision, but animals were never really "unclean" in themselves (Rom.14:14) to begin with. "clean and unclean" were ultimately spiritual conditions, and animals are not spiritual! The vision shows us that it was MAN that was unclean, with the various animals symbolizing this. God used this law to remind them of separation; of "the holy from the profane". The same principle was being taught with other laws, such as separating different kinds of seed, or even not wearing fabric with mixed material (Lev.19:19, which is not even thought about by most, today!) Yet with this spiritual point being brought out now, once again, to avoid unclean people (now determined by their being sinners wthout Christ, rather than by being Gentile instead of Jewish), fulfills the Law of clean and unclean, rendering the dietary laws no longer binding.
They were not health laws, as the commandment-keepers argue. Most 'unclean' seafood has been shown to be healthier than 'clean' red meats! With better raising of pigs today, even pork has been proclaimed to be healthier than even beef and chicken now. It is secular critics, rejecting divine inspiration who claim the restriction was only for health: “those laws were given because they didn’t know how to cook it properly back then”. In that case, if it were “health”, it would be null and void anyway, as we do now know how to cook pork to avoid trichinosis, and shellfish to avoid the toxins it has if killed too early. Once again, it's clean poultry that has now surpassed pork with the threat of salmonella poisoning if not cooked completely! Meanwhile, there are plenty of clean animals that naturally can be dangerous if not prepared properly. The bluefish has toxins located under its back fins, which has to be avoided. Something like that would probably have been forbidden if the laws were only about health. The Lawkeepers still insist with the "unclean", "it is killing you and you don't know it"; and it could "result in premature death after continuous usage for, say ten, or thirty, or fifty years" as Armstrong suggests, but people who eat pork and shellfish and eat healthy in the rest of their diet are no less healthy, neither die any younger than the kosher. The oldest people in the world often eat pork and are otherwise non-kosher. So then what is this negative health effect? Everyone dies, and pork has not been shown to be a cause of it. Lev.11:44 clearly shows that the purpose of those laws was holiness. But we all know now that holiness or sanctification is the work of the God through the Holy Spirit (2 Thess.2:13).
For these reasons Paul said that the Law was not made for the righteous
person, but for the ungodly (ITim.1:9-11;see also v.5-8, regarding people
who "desire to be teachers of the Law, understanding neither what they say, nor what they affirm", and that the law is good "if one uses it lawfully"). Furthermore, all of these commandments were given as a "sign" to distinguish Israel from the rest of the nations as God's people, as Armstrong would constantly remind us (Ex.31:13). But now, Jesus says "BY THIS shall all men know that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another"(John 13:35) THIS is now the "sign" of God .(But actually it always was, but because Israel
would not obey even that, God added on all the ceremonies (Galatians 3:19)
to teach them obedience, UNTIL Jesus came with His Law, which is love.
The Lawkeepers cite various scriptures mentioning "commandments of God" in the New Testament (John 14:15,1 John 2:3,4, 3:22,5:23) and (Rom.13:9, James 2:11 Matt.19:18, 19, 15:4; James 2:8-12, and numerous other NT scriptures mentioning some of the Ten Commandments). They argue as if “commandments” means “every law that was ever commanded”. But they obviously do not keep the entire 613 commandments of the Old Covenant, which were referred to when "commandments" were mentioned back then. They are confusing the commandments (Law) of Moses with the commandments of Jesus. (John 14:15, 1John 2:3) The Law of Moses was based on the Ten Commandments, which then were broken down into the 613 which ceremonially magnified the principles of the 10. But the Law of Jesus did away with all of the little detail commandments, and summed up, or generalized the whole spirit of the Law into two commandments —Love for God and fellow man, which were further summed up as the ONE command, "whatever you would that men should do unto you do so unto them"; which all of the other commandments were categorized under (Matt.7:12,22:36-40). People think the 613 laws are "10 + 603" with the first ten made eternal, and the rest admittedly being abolished at the Cross (but some of the others such as the dietary laws are still retained by this movement!) But the 613 "hung on" the 10 (meaning the ten summarized them), and now it is revealed that the Ten in fact hang on the TWO, and the two hang on the ONE. The commandments of Jesus are not a 'Ten Commandment' code even though some of those commandments are reiterated. The reason they are repeated is not because the whole Ten Commandment Law is still in effect as such a neat point by point code, but because those individual commandments were meant to spell out the universal two commandments. If a person loves his neighbor, then he naturally will not do anything that violates the last 6 commandments (Rom.13:8-10), and if he loves God he definitely couldn't violate the first three; —Even though he does not necessarily ascribe to the observance of the Ten Commandment Law. THIS explains why apparently "nine of the Ten Commandments are 'reinstated'", and the fourth is not, as the Sabbathkeepers complain. It's because the first three and last six are absolutely necessary for man's relation to God and fellow man—his spiritual and moral life. The Sabbath falls in neither category, so was not included in any of the "lists" of "commandments" in the New Testament. People think it falls in the "love for God" category, but actually in the letter it doesn't. God absolutely cannot have us worshipping other gods or idols, and misusing His name, but He does not need anyone to keep Sabbaths to worship Him (see Acts 17:25). The Sabbath was made for man(Mark 2:27). But if man was made to love God (as these groups will affirm), and the Sabbath is the sign of that love (as they also claim), then man was made for the Sabbath.
The Purpose of the Law
To further show why it seems only some of the commandments carry over, here are a couple of illustrations. God gives a set of universal laws since the Fall: prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, theft, sexual perversion, eating live meat/blood and the mandate to establish courts. These break down into at least 66 principles which cover man's relation to God (two of them) and to neighbor (four of the others) and there's even one that deals with animals. Man continues to break these, so then God raises the Nation of Israel, and gives them a covenant with a stricter set of laws, breaking down into 613. Four of the original laws are included in a 10-point summary of the laws. Another one; the one on courts is related to one of the new commandments, called "bearing false witness". Then the one about idolatry (proper worship of God) is split into two, to more clearly forbid both other gods, (even if no physical representation is used) and constructing idols, even if they supposedly "represent" the true God. The one on animals is covered in the 613 and not included in the 10. There are also some other non-universal laws that had been added along the way, such as circumcision, that were in the 613. The last commandment sums up our desires, that can lead to violation of some of the other points of the 10. So now, a new commandment is added, that takes the day God rested in the creation, and makes a weekly memorial of it for the Isaraelites following the 10. Following that is an additional commandment telling us to "honor" our parents, which basically meant taking care of them when they are unable to care for themselves, as we see spelled out in Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees for bending this commandment to allow using the money for the altar instead. So in both sets of laws, we still see the universal Two: Love for God and for neighbor.
Of course, the Israelites would continue to break these, yet eventually, they decide to go to the opposite extreme, and try to make them stricter than they actually are. (while still bending others like the 5th). The sabbath had been made into a burden. So Jesus reminds them that they have gone way overboard in their application of it. It was made for man, (whichever "man" who aims to keep it), rather than man being made for it.
The whole lesson being drawn through all of this is that even with all of these laws, man could not be made righteous. So God sets aside the covenant with Israel, and now turns to the whole world. In the process, the 10—> 613 point code given to Israel is set aside, and we go back to the original universal law which God had always expected of all man. Only now, it's magnified to its spiritual intent; and the ceremonial commands from the 10—>613 code are fulfilled by Messiah. We are also told to set our minds on things above, because this old Creation is passing away, so naturally, a "memorial of [this old] creation" would not be mandated. We are promised a NEW Creation! The Law now is Love, and the Spirit teaches us what is right and wrong. So in this system, some of the 10 can be quoted from, because these were among the five commands that carried over from the original universal commands (plus the one that was split into two, and Honoring of Parents is retained as well, because it is certainly compatible with "love"); and people remember them best from the 10-point summary. Still, the universal Two are maintained, and both are actually apart of the ONE commandment of Love. This is what Christ said the whole Law were about, and the laws that hang on them can change, but the Two hanging on the One are always maintained, both before the Law of Moses was given, and after it, in the church age.
So when the NT says things like the Law being "abolished" or "nailed to the Cross", and us not being under the Law, etc. you can't say "no, those don't mean that, some of them are still quoted, so it's still the same unit". Armstrong has said "keeping [the commandments] in the spirit does not mean spiritualizing them away", but it is the scripture that determines which are eternal principles that are still kept in the letter (plus more), and which are not. Armstrong claims "the expression used by Protestants, 'nailing the Law to his cross' can only mean one thing. This is Satan's teaching that by being nailed to the Cross, Christ abolished the Law, making it possible for humanity to sin with impunity. What actually was nailed to the cross was Christ our sin bearer, who took on himself our sins, paying the death penalty in our stead, so that we are freed from the ultimate penalty of sinning, not made free to sin with impunity" (Mystery of the Ages, p.274). This is a common misrepresentation among Lawkeepers. No orthodox, evangelical "Protestant" believes any such thing. In fact, haven't we seen them preaching the loudest against all the "sin" in the world? Armstrong knew this, when he elsewhere said that the church "recognizes nine of the ten commandments". Many liberal mainline churches, perhaps, may be closer to this belief, but even for them, that would be a great exaggeration.
The passages in question are Ephesians 2:15 and Colossians 2:14. The latter does say Christ was nailed to the Cross, but it also says something else was nailed there with Him— the "handwriting of ordinances". (Some versions say something like "certificate of death" which some use to argue that it was only a "penalty" that was abolished, but the Greek is "dogma", which means "a law". The same word is used in Eph.) So the Lawkeepers dispute the scriptures, as they misconstrue their opponents' view, in order to escape the scriptural teaching on the Law. When we say the Law was nailed to the Cross, what it means is that the Law of Moses, which as I have said, contained universal laws, plus a bunch of ceremonial, national and other laws added on later. This was "against us", as it did not make us righteous, yet condemned us. So it was abolished. Nobody ever said all law, or the universal laws, were abolished, or that you could sin with impunity. But the New Testament, plus the Spirit in our hearts, is what determines what laws are still in effect, and thus, what is sin.
Also deserving mention at this point is the attempt of Lawkeepers to reinterpret "not under the Law" as "pardoned from the penalty of breaking the Law". This is based partly on 1 Tim.1:9, 10, which states "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for men-stealers (slave traders, kidnappers), for liars, for promise breakers, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine". The argument then goes, "if you are doing these things, then you are 'under the Law', but if you're not doing these things, then see, you are not 'under the Law'". One person put it "The law against drunk driving means nothing to me, because I never drink". So basically, the only way to not be under the Law is to keep the whole Law perfectly! But this is NOT what Paul says. The whole lesson of the nation of Israel is that man could not keep the Law. So being "under" it, it could only bring condemnation. The sabbathkeepers misunderstand what "under the Law" meant to begin with. They think that "writing My Laws on your heart" means that now, by supernatural power (the Holy Spirit) we keep the Law in a way that the Israelites never could. But still, nobody keeps it perfectly, including sabbathkeepers; and God's standard was not simply keeping the Law a little better than Israel did. At this point will they bring in the covering by Christ's blood and us being declared righteous by faith. But if that is the case, then we are admittedly not freed fom the Law and its penalties by keeping it perfectly! Once again, this is not to say there is no law at all for us today, but that when the written code of the Old Covenant was abolished, it was the conviction to keep the universal laws that we were given, and this does not include the sabbath and the rest of the Laws of Moses.
They will also try to say that what was abolished was "man's additions" to the Law (such as all the restrictions the Jews added to the Sabbath command). "This made it a burden, but God is restoring it as a blessing" they will add. But the death of Christ is a legal concept. It is God's way of officially changing the covenant to advance to the next phase of His plan for the world. God never recognized manmade additions to His Law, and therefore, Christ would not need to nail them to His Cross or "abolish" them. They were never legitimate to begin with!
Sabbath keepers will respond "So, you're saying that whatever is not repeated is deleted? The Bible dosn't say that!" But the above shows why it was apparently so. That shows that it was never an issue in church practice. They will try to take that to mean "see, they were all unanimously agreed in keeping it, and the early Christians were faithful in it". But the entire New Testament is addressing problems in the church and offering correction for various sins Christians were committing. That is where we see the other commandments listed. If the sabbath was still binding, people would be breaking it (especially all the gentiles, who were not accustomed to keeping it), and would be corrected on it, and warned about such "disobedience" as we see with every other commandment. The sins of the non-Christian world (idolatry, murder, lasciviousness, etc) are condemned throughout the New Testament, but their "ignoring" of the sabbath is never included, as the pagans' ignoring of it was not included in the condemnations of their sins (same ones) in the Old Testament either. The sabbathkeepers can only argue that the OT (like they argued for the NT) was not an "exhaustive account of everything God said" (much like the Jews, with their "oral Law"), and point to "clean and unclean" being mentioned to Noah, murder being wrong for Cain, etc. even though they were not mentioned as "commanded". But as I will show later, "clean and unclean" had another application (especially as man was not even eating meat at the time). But the other references to "sins" are the source that the Jews' list of "Noahide Laws" were drawn from (Idolatry: Gen. 31:19-36; Blasphemy: Gen. 3:1-4, Murder: Gen. 4.8-10-16, 6:11, 9:6, Theft: Gen. 3:6, Gen. 31:19, Forbidden sexual relationships: Gen. 19:5-7, 20.3, Establishing courts of justice: Gen. 19:1-9. (The Gates of a city were where Judges sat to convene Courts of Justice), Eating the Limb of a Living Animal: Gen. 9.4-5). The fact that these were issues God got angry with man for breaking, or then commanded man shows that these were what God expected man to follow, even if they were not earlier written.
Some will claim "the heathen do not establish the Law; only the People of the Covenant" to suggest that the Seven were not really all God expected of man, but rather the Ten given to Israel. The argument is that God "started with Israel" in spreading His truth to the world, and they were ultimately to rule the world by the Law of Moses. So their laws were what God really wanted for all mankind all along. Some Adventists will even add a criticism of a "two Gospel" plan, instead of "one Gospel" of the OT (citing Gal.3:8) and NT. Beside the fact that by God's foreknown plan, it did not work out like this, and the Law was changed anyway (ceremonies abolished, etc) when the Gospel was opened up to all; while the Gospel was "preached" (in prophetic form) in the Old Testament; it was not fully revealed until Christ in the New Testament. Again; for there to have been "good news", there must have been "bad news", and that was man's sin; which was what was being revealed in the Old Testament. This is what established the basis of the good news (Christ), which also was revealed in part to Abraham and others (hence Gal.3:8). So it was apart of one "Gospel" or "plan", but that still disproves the idea that all the same laws carry over. And besides, even in Old Covenant times the rest of man without the Law did have a conscience that would know that certain acts were wrong. And these are the same things we see continued in the New Testament after Christ. There is no such reference to the sabbath at all in the epistles, beyond not judging others over it, for either keeping or not keeping it.
The sabbath is just not universal, and neither is any longer a mandatory practice. It is also not mentioned in Revelation (like "idolatry", and "murders, sorceries (drug abuse), fornication, thefts", etc —violations of the universal laws that definitely plague civilization today), so how could not observing the Sabbath possibly be the dreaded "Mark of the Beast" that will be the ultimate issue in the final stand down between God and sin in this age? Besides reading it into "commandments of God" in ch. 12 and 14:12, they also claim "Rev 14:7 uses the unique language of the 4th commandment[i.e. "quotes" it] -- 'He who made the heavens and the earth the seas and the springs of water'." Of course, this is apart of the "Three Angels' Message", which is the final warning to the sinning world before judgment, and a common theme in Adventist teaching with the Sabbath made the ultimate issue. So "God as Creator of universe in Genesis, Exodus, and Rev." + "commandments" - "Mark of the Beast" = "Sabbath". But this is a very poor method of establishing a church practice; —"the same set of words are used". (This is just like what a Roman Catholic said on the same board as the Adventist I was debating with (whom he always disputes), that because we see heavenly temple ceremony mentioned in conjunction with "worship" and "God's throne" in Rev.4, then that proves we are to have elaborate ritual in the Church where we worship and "come before the throne"). God is always much more clear on what He expects of us than that. ESPECIALLY something as important and pivotal as they claim this is! Armstrong speaks of the sabbath as "the test commandment" (Mystery of the Ages p.231), but God does not "test" us by obscuring His commands, on the premise that we are "supposed to know". He is very clear and repetitive, rather than giving us 'riddles' about them!
So this text says nothing about "Sabbath", or is even telling us to do anything other than worship the right Being. So that is NOT a "QUOTE"! That is a reiteration of an eternal truth about God that happened to be mentioned in the commandment. (You can also find similar statements in Psalms 146:6 and Acts 4:24, 14:15, where it has nothing to do with the issue). It has nothing to do with a day of the week. The day of the week was His sign to Israel, in the OT, but never in the NT. If people worshipped Saturn on the 7th ("Saturn's") day, they would still be violating this, as do Jews who keep the day, but reject Jesus, and the more cultic "Christian/Messianic" groups who keep the day as well as more of the "commandments", but the Adventists do not even accept as properly worshipping God because of other issues. The day itself is not the Creator, and not the focus or even definition of "worship", and this is the very type of point the angel is teaching us! (Mark of the Beast explained at Revelation)
However, in all of this, sabbathkeepers, such as the Adventists unwittingly acknowledge the sabbath's non-universality, when they refuse to condemn the Sundaykeeping Church as unsaved, or having the mark of the Beast yet. (They claim it will only be branded on people after the third angel's message, "when the issues are made clear to all"). All of this speaks volumes against it being in effect today! It's a virtual admission that it is not revealed, not convicted or written on our consciences like the other commandments, or at the very least, not "clear" today! But what happens when a person, group, or the nonreligious society at large chooses a different commandment to ignore? Like adultery? Or how about "murder"? Then, especially the first two commandments, which involve worship of God versus other gods to begin with? While Christians can always fall into these sins, anybody who practices them (the common interpretation of passages like 1 John 3:4-9), is rejected as being a true, regenerate Christian. But they just cannot bring themselves to make this judgment over the sabbath. They themselves know that to break one is to break them all. But why the inconsistency? One person I posed this question to suggested "well, the Catholics violate the second commandment, but we believe some of them are saved". This then gets back to the "follow whatever light they have received until God reveals the rest" principle. But you have to be careful, because this is what many nonbelievers, and groups such as the Universalists use to render personal faith in Christ necessary altogether. And with the Catholics, their "allowance" for them to be pardoned is not a good example. For the fact that they might be saved is not something that is universally agreed on. Many Protestants will argue that none of them are saved, for reasons such as that. I find it hard to argue either way. I would consider giving them grace because their Church has taught them that their worship of saints and images, Christ "inside" the bread of communion, etc. really is not idolatry. (Reasons include "Christ is God incarnate, so worshipping a tangible object is now allowed", and even the brass serpent and physical objects in the Temple in the OT were commanded by God). So that's a difficult question, but still, it remains that this is debatable, while violation of the other commandments is not. So again, their acceptance of sabbathbreakers without a doubt, as true Christians is still nevertheless inconsistent!
|The Seven Noahide Laws were the universal law man, outside of the Covenant of Israel, was expected to keep|
Now when Jesus came as a man, His Job, still under the Old Covenant, was to keep the Law perfectly. Before His crucifixion, he could not say that commandments were abolished or fulfilled, because "all" was not 'fulfilled" yet. So then He upheld the Law of Moses. But even then, He began preparing us in principle for the fulfillment of the Law. He shows the relative unimportance of Sabbaths compared to the greater concerns of life. (Matt.12:1-12,15:10-20) This along with Acts 10 & 15, and Rom.14:1-7, sets the principles regarding days and meats. The Lawkeepers will always try to explain it all away. For both Matt.&Acts 10&15, they say that clean and unclean meats were not in question. But still, if you apply the principles of these passages, then you see that it does apply to the clean and unclean too. If those dietary Laws were still so much in effect, then they would have been included with the other prohibitions in Acts 15—which all deal with the same thing—what goes into the human body. For Rom. 14, one person told me that that passage was regarding fasting. But fasting is nowhere mentioned in that passage. That person ADDED to the scripture something that was not there. Colossians 2:16,17 includes the Sabbath, along with the "feast days" as shadows of Christ. People have come up with all sorts of ways to get around this, effectively rewriting both this passage and Rom.14, to get "sabbaths" to mean annual sabbaths only (for those like the Adventists who don't keep the annual days). Yet in Colossians, "a holy day day" and "the sabbath [days]" ("days" added by translators) are clearly distinguished from one another. In Rom.14, they try to say that "observe every day alike" means basically "keeping every day", and therefore must also refer to the annual sabbaths. Then it is argued that only three of the annual feasts required all the males to appear, so the others were "optional"; hence a person could "keep" all, or one "above" another. But while only three had a male pilgrimmage, all of them were "sabbaths" with the same "no work" definition as the weekly sabbath, so there is no such thing as "keeping one over another". The passage means just what it looks like: to some all days are the same, and to others, some days (weekly, monthly and annual) are "esteemed above" the others. Many Gentiles were coming into the Church who never had a "sabbath". So nobody is to judge one another on this, but if they themselves choose to observe/esteem the day, then they should do it unto the Lord. But what I myself found when I was shown these principles, is that this is no "fun"; it almost loses its whole meaning if it is not something I can use to go up to someone else and hit them with their "disobedience" to this command I am "faithfully" keeping. Every sabbathkeeper should examine themselves to see if this might be at least partly a motive. Does it still have as much meaning if you keep it yourself, but it makes you no better than anyone else; and God does not judge everyone else for not keeping it? If not, then that is not honoring or keeping the day to God at all, but rather to one's own pride.
It is also assumed that since Jesus told the people to pray that their flight (from the seige on Jerusalem) would not be on the sabbath in the Olivet discourse, that it would apparently still be in effect then, decades after the Cross. But the only problem with the flight being on the sabbath would be restrictions against travel, which the sabbathkeepers do not believe were mandatory before the Cross or after. Especially given that the flight would be for a good purpose ("to save life") which the sabbathkeepers point out Christ allowed. So Jesus was just repecting their convictions, not addressing anything "binding" on people.
The final argument is that the Gentiles being addressed in these passages must have known that the Sabbaths and dietary laws were not included in the discussion, because (it is assumed that) Paul taught them to keep the Law. But all of this is not sound scriptural reasoning. They drift way off what the Bible says, into completely unscriptural assumptions and biased arguments.
The Spiritual Magnification/Intent of the Law
Further proof that we are no longer under a Ten Commandment code is
the fact that even those commandments that were repeated were CHANGED.
Read Matthew ch.5 on the murder and adultery commandment. Lawkeepers correctly point out
that Jesus was "magnifying" the Law (10 Commandments), but just look at what
He was doing: "Ye have heard by them of old, 'You shall not...'; But I say
unto you...". In 'magnifying' the commandment, Jesus actually superseded the
Mosaic ordinance. Notice, what "them of old time" said (quote of Ex.20 commandment
—God's word through Moses) is contrasted with what Jesus is now saying.
It was the spiritual principle of the moral and spiritual (see v.33-37,
ch.6:19-21,24) laws that Jesus was bringing out. But every time He came to the
Sabbath, and magnified its spiritual intent, that always meant that physical
act of not working on a day took less importance to other issues. Sabbathkeepers will argue that "magnifying" means that the law becomes "more restrictive" in those cases, so why wouldn't the sabbath? Because, you can't generalize like that. The sacrifices became less "restrictive" to us (to the point of us not actually doing them at all) also. Besides, if "murder" is magnified to "hatred", and "adultery" to even "lusting", then what would keeping one day of the week holy to God magnify to? "You shall keep EVERY day of the week holy to Me!" Of course, we cannot cease from work 7 days a week, but then resting in Jesus, being His witnesses, and walking in the spirit (purifying our lives) is how to keep every day holy, and the mandatory "no work" rule was the the shadow of the Christian life, just like the sacrifices and other temple rituals were a shadow of Christ, and a "reminder". It was to physically/mentally get/keep people focused on God for a definite time every week (which sabbathkeepers will all attest to), but now we have His Spirit to keep us focused on Him all the time. So the commandment IS just as "magnified" as the others!
One reason the OT Law is said to be a "tutor" (Gal.3:24, 25) is because of the way God was dealing with Israel through it, as we see in Isaiah 28:10 "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line, here a little, and there a little" (Armstrong used this passage to teach that the Bible is a "jigsaw puzzle" one must put together "verse by verse", which justifies his method of taking isolated verses out of context and putting them together to support a doctrine--just as he had done with this very verse!) God dealt with them as "babes", as we can see with the "milk" reference in the previous verse which is used in the NT. That is why they had to cease from work on a day to focus them on God, and avoid certain animals to teach them a distinction between the "holy" and the "profane". It "seemed silly", and "people might not have understood it", as people will argue with both the meats and sabbaths today ("man in his own wisdom cannot see the difference, except through faith, and the Spirit...", as their arguments on both issues generally go). But that was how God was dealing with Israel, not with us, and it is wrong to carry these principles over to us under the New Covenant as if we are carnal Israelites without the Spirit.
The spiritual intent of the Law was not written in the Law. That's why it had to be abolished. The letter of the commandments did not reveal the full will of God and therefore could not make man righteous anyway. Also, in the whole chapter of Romans 7 Paul shows that the human nature is so perverted that a written law only makes it rebel and sin even more. So therefore, the Law must be written in the heart (conscience). The lawkeepers say this, but still hold on to the written ["carnal"] commandments. Paul says that even people who never heard the law will still be judged or justified by their conscience (Rom.2:14-16). John 1:9 shows that every person in the world has this law written in their conscience, even though they may never have heard of Him. This is why it is taught that all sinners, even the ones who never heard, are lost. They were still held accountable for what they knew was right. (James 4:17), and everyone has a sense of right and wrong, even though they may tell themselves that there are "no moral 'absolutes'". Man automatically knows that he should not dishonor his parents, kill, commit adultery, steal, lie and conspire to take something from someone else. And when a person comes to know something about God, he knows that he should commit himself to this God, and just like in a human relationship, when you're committed to a person, you don't forsake him or her for someone else, or have false ideas of who this person is or 'should be', and you wouldn’t insult or dishonor this person. Also, people who know God also sense a greater moral and spiritual responsibility than what is just written in the 10 Commandments. This is what Jesus was pointing out in Matthew 6.
But who would automatically sense a responsibility to keep specific
days in honor of God (unless they have read the command in the Law of
Moses)? That is just not a universal moral or spiritual law like the others
are. It is not written in the heart! The same thing with meats. The human
conscience would automatically know to avoid meats that are unhealthy, or
undesirable, and to eat foods that are healthy, but this does not always
coincide with the 'clean' and 'unclean' of the Law. So this is why Paul puts
these matters on the level of personal conscience (Rom.14). This makes it
funny how Armstrong says that "Christianity...puts human conscience, actuated
by Satan's false teaching, in place of God's law" (Which Day is the Christian
Sabbath, p36, emphasis mine), when in actuality, it's God's Word, that puts
human conscience convicted by God's Holy Spirit in place of the Law (Acts 15,
24:16 ,Romans 2:15, 9:1,ch 14, ITim.4:2, Titus 1:15, James 4:17, 1 John 3:20,21,etc)
So there is the Law of Moses, written in stone, and the Law of Jesus, written in the heart.
Paul, asks "Do we then make void the Law of God by our faith? God forbid! In fact we establish the Law " (Rom 3:31). Lawkeepers think "establishing" means he's telling us to keep the Law, but this in a whole passage where Paul downplays the Law in favor of faith, and once again, these people do not keep the whole Law. So anticipating that people will think he is teaching lawlessness, he asks "are we making void the Law through faith?", and counters, that no, we are actually establishing it! The Law hung on the 1—>2 commandments to love God and neighbor, and this can be "established" without keeping all the precepts of the Law of Moses.
Ironically, as much as they argue for "the need for rest", the sabbathkeepers I have debated with online, will spend a good portion of the sabbath day on the computer responding in this debate. They reason that it is "testifying on the sabbath", and thus "doing good" as in "Jesus example and testimony" against the Pharisees. But unlike Jesus healing someone or plucking grain or witnessing to a person you run across, Internet discussion boards are generally recreation, and can wait for another day. (Serious, involved, and often heated discussions like that can also be mentally exhuasting, and almost like a job in itself!) Still, to grant them the benefit of the doubt, we see with this "doing good" clause that technical 'work' is OK on the sabbath, so you can go on the computer and argue about the sabbath (as draining as this can be), and this is the same as plucking ears of grain to feed yourself, healing someone, lifting an ox out of the ditch, the priest in the Temple, etc. just as long as it is "good". Then by their own testimony and example, as well as the principles Jesus was giving, here is the ultimate proof that the sabbath IS "weak and unprofitable" —IN THE LETTER! The command says "REST" and "DO NO WORK". But THAT is UNPROFITABLE, because there is GOOD that needs to be DOne for the Kingdom! What does this leave us with? Physical rest on a particular day of the week is NOT the perfect, profitable intent of the Law! Some may claim "Commerce for personal gain is doing our own pleasure [re: Is.58] and only profits self while doing God’s profits His kingdom testifying about the holiness of the Sabbath on the Sabbath profits His kingdom". But the division of "commerce" and "the Kingdom" just is not as great as you think it is. Everything we do is to be for the Kingdom and the glory of God. (1 Cor.10:31) Our lives are not to be sectionalized off with "work" purely for "our pleasure", and then we reserve just this one day "for God", and it only is His day, in which "His presence" resides, and no other day, and His [spiritual] Kingdom is only a church or meeting we go to on that day. These people do not realize how much they are dishonoring, de-exalting and un-glorifying God with these statements of theirs! So this also points to the fact that the sabbath, if it had been "magnified" in the Sermon on the Mount, would have expanded to every day!
So putting ones self through the discomfort of avoiding commerce on the day has nothing to do with loving God, or any "moral" principle, --ESPECIALLY if man is not made for the day, but the day made for man-- and is obviously a "tutor" shadow given to Israel to represent the rest we have that most of them didn't.
Some, such as the Adventists admit that the Law that was abolished was the Law of Moses. But then
they try to separate the Ten Commandments from the Law of Moses as a
"separate eternal covenant" in itself. They argue that the Ten were kept inside the ark of the covenant, while the others were kept outside. All this shows was that God placed a great emphasis on the summary, which represented the whole law (after all, 10 are easier to remember). Rather than proving the set itself was eternal, this proves the opposite as the "tables of the covenant" were mentioned as part of the tabernacle system whose passing was being described in Heb.9:4.
Armstrong goes even further as to say that the Sabbath alone was separate eternal covenant in itself. This is based on the assumption that it was always commanded by God, starting from the Creation, where it is mentioned. But nowhere before Moses was it ever recorded as being commanded for man's observance. Genesis was written by Moses, and he mentioned God's resting on and blessing the Sabbath at Creation to show the reader its meaning. Then God used that as a sign to identify His people at that time. But nowhere does it say that this makes it an "eternal covenant" binding upon all men for all ages. They also try to link Gen.2:3 with Isaiah 66:23 and Mark 2:27 to show it was "sanctified" at Creation (meaning it was "made holy" and therefore man was expected to observe it), and "made for man" (suggesting "all of mankind"), and will be observed in the eternal Kingdom. (Isaiah 65 and 66 also mention condemnations for eating unclean meats). Therefore, it is eternal and expected to always be kept. But such pasting together of scriptures still does not equate an eternal command and is not how we set Church practice. For one thing, other things were "made for man", such as marriage, which was instituted even before the Sabbath, with man commanded to "be fruitful and multiply". But this does not mean that every single person is obligated to get married (although Jews erroneously tended to think that way. One person tried to argue that "everyone is to 'honor' the institution of marriage whether they are married or not" (by avoiding adultery, for instance), but in the biblical definition, as we see in Romans 7 where a woman is considered "free" from the Law if her husband dies; not still under it because she has to "honor" others' marriages. This, of course is significantly enough being used to illustrate our freedom from the Law!) Christ's point regarding "made for mankind" was that people were making it a burden, beyond what it was created for. Also, God rested from the act of Creation. Man did not create, and God did not then go back to the work of Creation the next six days, and every week continuously, so man could not do what God did that first week.
As for Isaiah, the passage also mentions "new moons" (which none of the groups keep), and even "[Israel's] seed", and an "offering" with "priests and Levites". It is obviously a conditional picture of the future under the Old Covenant had Israel remained faithful and ushered in the Kingdom, as originally planned. Some say it is symbolic (since the Temple aspects of it are in fact fulfilled by Christ as our High Priest), and they claim that "from new moon to new moon" simply refers to "time cycles". But if that is the case, so does "from sabbath to sabbath" refer to such. Either way, it still says nothing of what we are to do today. It doesn't even say the people would be RESTing on the day (especially if they take it literally and have the people spending all day travelling from all over the world to God's mountain).
Speaking of the future kingdom, people who argue this don't believe God would "sanctify" it at Creation, and not reveal its "benefits/spiritual blessing for mankind" to man right away, thus "keeping Adam in the dark". But while God has mansions for us in Heaven (that are obviously for our "benefit" and "spiritual blessing"), and He has revealed to us something about them, still, we do not receive the benefit now, but only "see in a glass darkly". God is free to reveal the things He has made and sanctified at His own timing, according to His plan.
Mosaic "Commandments" Before Moses and What are the "Commandments" or "the Law" in the NT?
In support of their belief in the Sabbath as a command from Creation, Sabbathkeepers often point to God's chastisement of the people in Exodus 16:28,9 (before the 10 Commandments were given) as proof that the sabbath must have been commanded all along. But it had just been commanded in that passage! We must check contexts, but many of these teachers do not do that. It started in verse 22, when people gathered twice as much manna on the 6th day, and the rulers, not knowing what was going on, went and told Moses. Moses then tells them about the Sabbath which God had commanded him (and thus not which had been in effect all along), and that no manna would be provided then, Then of course, some disobeyed and went out to look for it on the Sabbath, and God said "how long do you refuse to keep My commandments and my laws? For the LORD has given you the Sabbath...". This is the first time it had ever been given, and nowhere does it say it had been commanded before that. God had begun giving the Passover in chapter 12, so we see that He was gradually beginning to reveal the Law of Moses, even before the 10 Commandments were given on the stone tablets from Mt. Sinai in chapter 20. So there is no evidence the Sabbath was ever commanded before Moses.
Abraham was mentioned as keeping "commandments, statutes and laws" (Gen 26:5) but God doesn't say what these
laws were. We can't assume that they were the same as the ones He gave to
Israel. circumcision was also before Moses, being the Abrahamic covenant, yet in Acts
it is called the Law of Moses, and was said to be abolished with it.
A "clean" and "unclean" was recognized in Noah's time (Gen.7:2), and before God had declared that all animals would be for food (ch.9:3), but still, there is no mention of God commanding them to avoid the so-called "unclean" animals—ONLY blood (which was mentioned in Acts 15). At that time, clean and unclean were in regard to sacrifice (8:20), as people were not yet given any meat for food. Then God allows all meat to be eaten in the next chapter. Armstrong tries to explain this away (Principles of Healthful Living, p.20) by emphasizing "as I have given you the green herb", and then draws attention to the fact that we do not eat poisonous herbs, which is taken as a "restriction" ("God did not give them as food"), so likewise, "as He gave us all green herbs" with "restrictions", so he gives us "all meats" with restrictions. But our avoidance of these plants was not a command that God gave man, but rather man on his own would also discover and avoid what was not healthy. Armstrong then tries to qualify that man "can not by himself determine which flesh foods are harmful", and is thus why God determined that for us. But the restrictions on meat all had to do with spiritual "defilement" (and Armstrong had just insisted on the previous page that this law was not "spiritual"! He totally missed the [spiritual] meaning of the concept of "defilement"!) Nowhere are any plants termed "unclean" or "defiling" anyone, as meats later were! Nowhere do we see man eating these things, and being condemned by God for it. If they did, they would suffer the natural consequences, but not the "ceremonial uncleanness" according to the Law of Moses. They will then claim that "destroying the temples" (our bodies) is the real sin. (Armstrong, who admits that this law is not "spiritual" even argues that the eating itself is not "sin"). With known poisonous plants or animals, yes, polluting the body would be sin. But if pork and shellfish had some hidden harm (other than what is known about them not cooked properly), then we would never have people who eat them living healtlily to a ripe old age. Most if not all of those centenarians we often see on TV are not "kosher". It's amazing the lengths people will go to read things into the words of scripture.
So we do see in the pre-Flood time, one restriction surfacing, (proving it was not about HEALTH!) but as time went on, more restrictions were added. Man still did not get God's point of holiness from the sacrifices, so let's add more rules. To Moses, it's you now shall not eat the animals that I declared unclean for sacrifice either. This is how "The law was added because of sin". Different things were added gradually, as we see. They were not always commanded. Of course, precisely the point God was teaching us through history, was that adding more rules was not the solution for man's problems. Now that that has been addressed through Christ and the Spirit, that is why many of those rules that had been added are now abolished.
You'd think that the Orthodox Jews would believe in the universality of the Law and its obligation to all man, but they believe that it was only for the Children of Israel, and criticize the Christian lawkeepers for not understanding what the Law was about. They point out that there were really only seven universal laws, called the "Noahide laws" (with about 66 principles under them) given to all of man, (see www.noahide.com/7laws.htm), and these are basically what we see partly retained in Acts 15, while the rest of the Law was only for Israel.
Despite the claims of the Lawkeepers, Mark 7:10, Romans 7:7 and 13:9 show that the Ten Commandments are apart of the Law of Moses. Heb.9:4 shows that "the tables of the covenant", even inside the ark as they were, were apart of the tabernacle system being discussed as passing away. Some others point to Hebrews 7, where the sacrifices are discussed as being "weak" and "unprofitable", as if those were the only laws that were abolished. So they can point to all the scriptures upholding "The Law", and skip over all the ones speaking against "the Law", under the premise that one group is speaking of the Ten Commandments, and the other group is speaking of the rest. But none of these passages say that, but rather treat the whole system as one.
|The dietary laws were not health laws, but carried spiritual meanings. The healthiest people in the world are not specifically kosher|
The dietary Laws and feast days are apart of the "Book of the Law" (i.e— the rest of the Law outside the 10 commandments, which most groups will admit was "done away"), but they still keep them. It's like they are just just picking out whichever commandments they want (especially those which are not directly said by NT writers to be done away), and separating them from the rest of the laws—especially those which are clearly done away, such as sacrifices and circumcision, when no such separation existed in the Law. They try to say that some Laws were "eternal", and those must still be kept, but I'll show you a little trick: The statute commanded "forever" in Lev.23:14 was not the feast day, but the OFFERING! If one is going to be consistent with the "eternal ordinance" theory, then one should also be keeping offerings. See also Ex.27:21, 28:43, 29:9, 28, Lev.3:17 And circumcision was also an "everlasting covenant" (Gen.17:13). But it is understood how Christ fulfilled those commandments, so the same thing applies to the other ceremonial points of the Law. This is why Paul quoted Deut. 27:26 & 21:23 in Gal.3:10,12— "cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law..."; "The man who does them shall live by them". If you keep the sabbaths and dietary laws (in an obligatory fashion), then you must be consistent and keep the sacrifices too, else you are under a curse, and remember that nobody can keep the whole Law perfectly. If Christ's work didn't fulfill all of those laws, then it doesn't fulfill the sacrifices either. When all of this is pointed out, they will try a different tactic and speak of further "divisions of the Law", into "moral" (the Ten Commandments and others that continue, such as "killing yourself" with unclean meats), "ceremonial" (the sacrifices) and "civil" (penalties on the breaking the sabbath and others, which they obviously do not keep). Of course, it will be argued that "only the moral" still continue. But here again, these "divisions", while being somewhat legitimate, are not the Bible criteria for which laws cease and which remain. (If anything, the Sabbath itself would fall under "civil", since it governs commerce, and was specifically designed as the "sign" of the nation only).
The Romans vs the Galatians: Liberty vs. Bondage
One Adventist argued to me "But Paul defended the keeping of days in Romans 14, so why would he condemn it in Galatians?" But the difference is in keeping them "unto the Lord" as one's own personal devotion, in contrast with keeping them in a compulsory fashion as if Christ never came and we were still bound by the Old Covenant. (It also is condemning trying to impose them on others). This is what the Galatians allowed people to lead them into (4:10), bringing them back under the same type of "bondage"(v.9) they were under as pagans (v.8). The person didn't believe this could possibly be referring to the sabbath and other laws God once commanded, and insisted it could only be a "return" to the paganism they came out of; emphasizing the words "return AGAIN", pasted to the previous verse "and you did service unto them which by nature are no gods". So my reading of the passage would make God the "author of paganism". But in verse 3, Paul includes himself as being in "bondage to the elements" like the pagans were; the point was, even with God's Law, the Jews were still in the same spiritual state as everyone else. All throughout the book it is "desiring to be under the Law" (v.21) Paul criticizes. In 2:4, he claims "false brethren" were trying to "bring us into BONDAGE", and then even a situation where Peter and others started to "live like the Jews", "fearing them which were of the circumcision(v.12); and it was in this context that we are told "that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (v.16), and being "dead to the Law" (v.19). All through chapter 3 he continues discussing "the Law" with the warning in v.10 "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the CURSE: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them", and that the Law was our "schoolmaster" or "tutor" to bring us to Christ; "But after that faith has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster (24, 25, see also 4:2). chapter 4 afterwards, continues with the discussion of the Old versus new covenants, likening them to Hagar and Sarah. Chapter 5 starts with "be not entangled AGAIN with the yoke of bondage. [NOW what does "again" refer to? It refers back to the subject he has returned to: the practices of the Jews!], and then the discussion goes into circumcision. He warns them "if all of you 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; all of you are fallen from grace". So the paganism in 4:10 was a passing reference to their past, for sake of comparison; not what the book is dealing with that they were being influenced with then. We see here why Paul would be condemning practices that are are allowed as "liberty" to others (Such as the Romans. The Adventist often pointed to Paul having Timotheus circumcised in Acts 16:3 as well). The Galatians had a worse problem with Judaizers than the Romans. The Romans were told not to judge; but the Galatians had been so influenced by works-righteousness that their "observance" would make Christ "of no effect".
Then, it is attempted to argue that "you observe days and months and times and years" is the same "observe times" that was condemned in Lev.19 as referring to occult practices, and "observe" (Gk. "watch with evil intent") means "astrology". But "times" (or "seasons") in the Greek of Galatians means simply "appointed times" (which Israel had), and the Greek meaning of "observe" says nothing of astrology, and the apostate Jews' attempt to bring new Christian converts back under the bondage of the Law was just as much an "evil intent" as any possible pagan infiltration. Evil intent means just what it implies: doing something that looks good, but there is a bad motivation behind it. The same Greek word (translated "watched") was used several times for Jews trying to trap Jesus (on the sabbath, no doubt!) and Paul, in Acts. They looked nice and "lawful" trying to get the Christians to keep "the Law of God", (just like their foreunners in the Gospels looked nice and lawful trying to catch these new leaders they saw as teaching lawlessness), but what was the motivation? Personal devotion ot the Lord? No. It was opposing God's revelation of truth; thus "evil". The themes of "annual, monthly and weekly" observances we see here, are used all over scripture as referring to Israel's practices under the Law. (1 Chronicles 23:31, 2 Chronicles 2:4, 8:13, 31:3, Nehemiah 10:33, Isa 1:13-14, Ezekiel 45:17, Ezek 46:1-11, Hosea 2:11). This is what the letter to the Galatians is dealing with. Just look, for example, at the Isaiah passage, where God is angry at them for keeping laws He gave them (v.11-14). The sabbathkeepers will try to say that these were "pagan practices", but that is not what God says; it is because "their hands were full of blood" (v.15) and they neglected other things (v.16,17). That negates the legitimate God-given laws they were keeping, and since none of us keeps all the law, we are all just as lost "under the Law" as any other people. Yes, Jesus may have added "and not leave the other things undone" (Mt.23:23), but the point was, that simply "following the 10 commandments", they missed "the weightier matters of the Law" (which are not expounded in the ten-point summary of the Law), and God chastized them as if they were practicing paganism, even though it was the laws He Himself had commanded them. All of this is used by Paul to show that the Israelites WERE in fact in the same type of "bondage" as the pagans, and this because they were under the Law.
The Covenants of God and the true "Sign"
These lawkeeping groups apparently do not understand what a covenant was. (1Tim. 1:5-8) God had made an agreement with the children of Israel that they would be His peculiar people IF they kept the laws that were the sign of this agreement. Every sabbath, feast day ceremony and ritual offering was apart of this pact. If one party breaks that agreement, then the WHOLE CONTRACT is ended, which means EVERYTHING included in the contract, no matter how long it was to be in effect; even if it was established "forever". Now the lawkeepers understand that Israel was chosen by God to be a witness to the world, but they rebelled and then killed His Son, so then He turned to the Gentiles and started a NEW covenant. But their mistake is that they assume that the laws of the Old Covenant, since they were instituted "forever", were therefore TRANSFERRED to the New Covenant, with certain modifications (meat sacrifices replaced by Christ's sacrifice, etc). And then some even try to mention that converted gentiles are "spiritual Israelites", and Armstrong and his offshoots even say that English speaking nations are [descendants of] the physical Israelites. But none of that would even make a difference, because that covenant belonged to those Israelites ONLY,and no one else (except Gentiles who had joined with the physical Israelites under that Old covenant). Covenants can not be transferred. You most realize that when God gave that eternal covenant, it was not then intended for Israel to be rejected and the Gentiles turned to. That was not apart of the original plan (though it was apart of the eternal plan). It was just Israel that was to be His people forever, and if they hadn't rebelled and crucified the Messiah, then the Old Covenant would perhaps still be in effect. But since they did rebel, He set them aside and turned to "whomsoever will". But that means that the Old Covenant, with all its "eternal" ordinances was ALSO set aside. For God's new people He has a NEW covenant—with NEW ordinances, and the very NT passages used to teach commandment-keeping say that love is the only commandment in this new covenant. (Rom. 13:8, 9b, James 2:8, 1 John 3:23, 4:21, 2:7-11, 1:7-11, Matt. 22:37-40 , John 13:31, 15:12, Gal.5:14, 1Tim. 1:5 , Matt. 7:12)
|The true sign of God is Love, which the whole Law hung on; and the true sabbath is the spiritual rest given by Jesus|
Speaking of the belief of Pentecostal/Charismatics that "tongues" are the
'sign' of God, Armstrong says "Yes, Satan can COUNTERFEIT "tongues". And do you
suppose for one moment that the true BIBLE EVIDENCE [of the baptism with
the Spirit—of being a true Christian] could ever be something that can be
cleverly COUNTERFEITED? No, NEVER! But the FRUITS of the Holy Spirit, LOVE, JOY, PEACE, patience, kindness, gentleness.., these things in one's life cannot be
counterfeited.They are not natural. No one has sufficient will-power to
FORCE himself to show always these fruits in his life. It requires the
miracle of the LOVE OF GOD shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit
(Rom.5:5).Satan has no counterfeit for that.
"It is but natural that Satan's counterfeits are of the FLESH—even his counterfeits of spiritual things." (The Tongues Question, p.22) But Armstrong should realize that everything he has just said here applies equally to commandment-keeping. Anybody can rest on a sabbath, put bread out of their house for a week every year and have a kosher diet. The orthodox Jews do, but are still not obedient because of their rejection of the Messiah. Paul significantly enough says that "the letter of the Law" is OF THE FLESH! (Rom.8:1-13, Gal.3:3, Heb 7:16)
But what's even more ironic is that all of the Christian/Messianic lawkeeping sects and denominations reject each other—and all other groups because of differences in their lawkeeping. Armstrong rejects everyone else because they don't preach his "gospel" of men becoming members of the Godhead at the resurrection or follow his church organization, and because many do not keep the law to the extent that he does. (His offshoots keep the same laws yet, all fight amongst each other as to which group is the true successor!) And then groups that keep the law to a greater extent, such as the sacred name/Messianic Jewish groups, reject him and each other, as well as everyone else. Armstrong and others like him will use the same reasoning they condemn the non-Sabbathkeepers for to prove that those groups go too far. The Adventists think that all of these groups go too far in keeping all the other laws beside the Sabbath and dietary, and suspect them of denying salvation by faith --also like the Sunday keepers, and the Adventists will agree along with them that the annual feasts were "nailed to the Cross", "were a shadow of Christ", etc. (Also, the Adventists doubt most of these groups for their rejection of the Trinity). Armstrong and similar offshoots point out that "the arguments used against the annual sabbaths are the same used against the weekly sabbath", and the sacred name groups point out "the arguments used against the sacred names are the same used against the sabbaths". (One such group listed in the Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups even advertizes a booklet entitled "Sabbathkeepers, are you keeping ALL the Commandments"? suggesting those not using the sacred names are still "just one law short" and therefore no better than those who do not keep the sabbath. Another group says that "all the sabbath and holy day keeping churches and assemblies are...just as deceived as the Sunday and holiday keeping Churches" for getting Pentecost wrong!
So then the Sabbath and the other commandments cannot possibly be the
sign of God because the different groups that keep these laws do not even
regard it as a sign amongst each other! There's always some other law, or way
of keeping the law, or doctrine that identifies each group as the true church
or assembly or house of the Creator, and all of the other lawkeeping groups are
rejected as being just as false as the Sunday keeping churches, and even
the pagan religions or just plain non-belief. So while upholding the Sabbath as the sign of God, these warring groups all fail in what the New Testament actually says is the true sign for us today! And what I notice is that
most of these groups dwell so much on being the sole truth that they wind
up being centered more on the group—on MAN, then they are on this Creator.
They are supposed to be so much the representatives and true servants of.
It's like His name is used only to further exalt the group--"WE keep all
His commandments";"WE use His correct name", etc. It's always what they do,
almost never what the Creator has done or does, such as His love and
His provision for us.
Indeed, there are some groups, such as some radical Messianic and Islamic sects, that devote their entire ministries to condemning all other groups, emphasizing a correct way to keep a set of laws and how all other groups fall short. And the Creator's name is never praised. Only used. Only argued as to which language it should be pronounced in. They then try to turn the argument around emphasizing "blessing" instead of "binding"; but still,the entire merit of it is a person having to quit a job to avoid working the day, and then "trust God to provide for his needs" (while the leaders have the Church organization providing for all his needs! This is the same abuse of the concept of "trusting God" that takes place in the mainstream Sunday Church). So even if these groups did keep the entire law perfectly, their glorification of themselves more than the Creator completely destroys all that they have done (Ex.20:7, James 2:10). And besides, the non-Christian world is not impressed by Sabbaths and other "laws". These things mean nothing to theirs— Just a bunch of rituals like every other religion has. So that proves without a doubt that those laws are not a 'sign' of God to the world. But love, joy, peace, etc. are what the non-believing world always looks for in those that witness to them.
What about Sunday? And the traditional Church's answers
None of this is to replace the Sabbath with Sunday, as many apologists do. The "first day of the week" is mentioned a few times in the New Testament, but in passing, mainly. (Just like references to the Sabbath, which the Sabbathkeepers take to prove it was still to be kept). Christians were never commanded to worship on that day either, even if they were "gathered together" for some reason. It was on the following century that Christians began seeing Sunday as the "eighth day", that superseded the sabbath, representing the newness of the Resurrection. (The Resurrection of Christ was more likely around the period just after sunset ending the Sabbath, beginning the "first day", rather then sunrise). This may have been a good analogy, but to be truthful, we cannot say it has any divine authority. The principle for either day is in Roman 14:5, 6— "One man esteems one day above another day; and another esteems every day alike. Let each one be fully assured in his own mind. He who regards the day regards it to the Lord; and he not regarding the day, does not regard it to the Lord."
This whole issue is compounded by the fact that orthodox Christianity has not come forth with a consistent answer to the charges of the sabbathkeepers. The traditional answer has been "the Ten Commandments are still in force, but the fourth has been changed to Sunday". This is what led the Adventists to rise up and insist the commandment specifies the seventh day in the first place. Others then claim "nine of the Ten commandments are kept, the fourth is abolished". But no scripture teaches anything like that, which has also fueled the sabbathkeepers' case. Some go as far as saying "we do not even know if the seventh today is the same day as it was in the Bible". But the sabbatarians rightly point out that the Jews have faithfully kept it without interruption, since, and God would have known which day it was and reminded them anyway. Others say "the whole law is done away", and often leave it at that, raising understandable accusations of "Lawlessness" or "antinomianism", and fueling the whole endtime speculation with such "iniquity" leading to "the mark of the Beast" and whatnot. Some say the law is done away, and "the New Testament reinstates nine of them" or "We just keep whichever ones the New Testament says". This is somewhat closer to the truth, but is still not clearly outlined there. The distinction between the universal law and the Law of Moses is the best articulation of how we know which laws we are to keep.
The Prophet Like Moses
It's funny that Muslims believe that Muhammad was the "prophet
like unto Moses" (Deut.18:15,18), and not Jesus. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in
his autobiography Giant Steps (Bantam, 1983), p.167 explained the Muslim
concept: "Moses was a lawgiver, as was Abraham. Jesus was not; he only
taught people how to live according to the laws that were already written."
But that is not true; God is the Lawgiver. He gave one set of laws through
Moses which was then called "the Law of Moses". It was just a type of the
true spiritual Law of God. Then God revealed that spiritual law through
Jesus, who simply took the Law of Moses and changed its application, magnifying
lts spiritual intent. So both Moses and Jesus were "givers" of God's
Law. This makes Jesus the Prophet like unto Moses. (In fact, Moses was a
type of Christ) (34:10, "There arose not a prophet like unto Moses in Israel
since... This is from the perspective of the writer, meaning as of the time the book
was written. It does not say "there shall never arise...")
Many sabbathkeepers, as well as Muslims, often speak of a "Faith of Abraham", being that Abraham is often portrayed in the Bible as a father of the faithful. Of course, these groups identify whichever commandments they think are binding on man today (whether Jewish or Islamic) as defining this "faith". But there is no evidence in the scripture for this. They appeal to Gen 26:5 "because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept...My commandments, My statutes and My laws". Armstrong continues with grossly fallacious logic, when he claims: "Jesus called Abel 'righteous' (Matt.25:35), so Abel kept the Sabbath. Enoch 'walked with God', so Enoch kept the Sabbath. And Noah kept it, because Noah was a preacher of righteousness, (2 Peter 2:5)—and 'all My commandments are righteousness' (Psalms 119:172)" (Which Day is the Christian sabbath?, p.16). But nowhere does it say that the Sabbath, (as well as annual feasts, dietary laws, or the pillars of Islam) were apart of His "commandments" back then. There were no set of laws listed, so this is adding to the scriptures. We know that what are known as the Noahide laws were around, and Jews would say that these are the universal laws that go back to Noah and before. Prohibitions of idolatry, blasphemy, murder, theft, sexual perversion, eating live meat/blood and the mandate to establish courts of justice are obviously universal, and God always expected man to obey these. Also as evident from Cain and Abel (and even God's killing an animal for skins to cover Adam and Eve), blood sacrifice for sin was universal. These are the "commandments and statutes and laws" God refers to regarding Abraham, and people who kept these laws were "righteous", or "walking with God". If God had not commanded the Sabbath then, then people could be righteous without it, so that logic is far from the truth. So it's doing whatever God tells you that is the "faith of Abraham". For instance, the main act of obedience that made Abraham such an example in the first place was his willingness to sacrifice his son, which was a special command (and not even something that would be good otherwise), not any set of laws and rituals other than the universal commands. Hebrews 11, the "Faith Hall of Fame" mentions this plus the acts of faith of Sarah, Abel, Enoch, and Noah.
Likewise, John 15:10 10 "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love and "walk as he walked" (1 John 2:6) are taken to speak similarly of a "faith of Jesus". But Christ kept the entire Law. He was born under the Law, so naturally lived the life of an Old Testament Jew; only he did it perfectly without sin, unlike any other who ever lived. So if you take that verse that way--we should keep "all of the commandments Jesus kept"; then we are again, debtors to do the whole Law! What that verse and "walking as He walked" means is that we are to keep all of the commandments that are in effect for our dispensation, and He says that this is all summed up in "love".
So there is no evidence either Jewish or Islamic laws were the faith of Abraham, and therefore mandated to all today, and anyone who insists so is blatantly adding to the text of scripture! "Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar". Do not break the ninth commandment in trying to enforce the fourth!
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