Part 1: Opening Statements
Opening Statement By Mr. Duncan Heaster:
9-1-1 The Sabbath And The Law Of Moses
The Change In The Law
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sin and the ideal High Priest
who could truly gain forgiveness for us. Therefore the old system
of animal sacrifices and high priests was done away with after his
death (Heb. 10:5-14). “The priesthood being changed (from the Levites
to Christ), there is made of necessity a change also of the law”
(Heb. 7:12). Therefore, “there is verily a disannulling of the former
regulation (i.e. the law of Moses) because it was weak and useless.
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better
hope (through Christ) did” (Heb. 7:18,19 A.V. with N.I.V.). This
means that it is irrelevant to argue that any command system of
God cannot be changed and is eternal- for clearly there was
a change made.
The Problem Of Trying To Keep The Law
To trust in Sabbath keeping for justification means that we do
not accept the fullness of Christ’s victory. Such beliefs mean that
we do not accept Christ’s sacrifice as completely successful, and
that we feel that works are necessary to bring about our justification,
rather than faith in Christ alone. “No man is justified by the law
in the sight of God...for, The just(ified) shall live by faith”
(Gal. 3:11 cf. Hab. 2:4). Our own effort to be obedient to the letter
of God’s laws, however determined, will fail and will not bring
us justification; surely every reader of these words knows this
If we observe the Law of Moses, we must attempt to keep all
of it. Disobedience to just one part of it means that those who
are under it are condemned. “As many as are of (i.e. rely on) the
works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed
is every one that continueth not in all things which are
written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). What the
Law says, it says to those under the Law; but if we are under grace,
as the NT says that we are, then the Law doesn’t speak to us in
the sense of commanding us (Rom. 3:19 cp. 6:14,15). If we are led
by the Spirit, we are not under the Law (Gal. 5:18).
The Victory Of Jesus
The weakness of our human condition means that we find it impossible
fully to keep the Law of Moses, but due to Christ’s complete obedience
to it, we are freed from any obligation to keep it. Our salvation
is due to God’s gift through Christ, rather than our personal works
of obedience. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak
through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful
flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Thus
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a
curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). Because of this, we are no longer required
to keep any of the ordinances of the Law of Moses. The New Covenant
in Christ replaced the Old Covenant of Moses’ law (Heb. 8:13). By
his death, Christ blotted out “the handwriting of ordinances that
was against us, which was contrary to us (by our inability to fully
keep the law), and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross...Let
no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink (offerings), or
in respect of a religious festival, or of the new moon, or of the
Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the reality
is Christ” (Col. 2:14-17 A.V. with N.I.V.). This is quite clear
- because of Christ’s death on the cross, the law was taken “out
of the way” so that we should resist any pressure put on us to keep
parts of it, e.g. the feasts and the Sabbath. Like the rest of the
law, the purpose of these things was to point forward to Christ.
After his death, their typical significance was fulfilled, and there
was therefore no further need to observe them. If we are going to
keep the Sabbath, then why not keep the other Jewish festivals?
For Paul lumps them all together. He made no difference between
the 10 commandments and the rest of the Torah.
Warnings against keeping any part of the Law of Moses in order
to gain salvation are dotted throughout the New Testament. Some
taught that Christians should be circumcised according to the Mosaic
Law, “and keep the law”. James flatly condemned this idea on behalf
of the true believers: “we gave no such commandment” (Acts
15:24). Peter described those who taught the need for obedience
to the law as putting “a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which
neither our fathers nor we were able to bear. But we believe that
through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (as opposed to their
works of obedience to the law) we shall be saved” (Acts 15:10,11).
Paul is equally outspoken: “A man is not justified by the works
of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ...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...no man
is justified by the law...by (Christ) all that believe are justified
from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law
of Moses” (Gal. 2:16; 3:11; Acts 13:39).
The New Torah
“All the titles given by the Jews to the Torah: bread, water of
life, light of the world, shepherd, the way, the truth and the life,
all these John applies to Christ. The opening of John's gospel is
taken from a pre-Christian Jewish hymn of praise to the Torah, in
the Jewish hymn it is the Torah that is " in the beginning"
, " the Word" , " with God" , " the world
was made" , " light" , " life" , "
the true light that enlightens every man" , " grace and
truth" , " in the bosom of the Father" , but John
applies all these to Christ. All that Judaism had claimed for the
law, John applies to Jesus Christ, he, rather than the Torah, is
the final revelation of God's will” (J. Mann) (1). The 5 books of
Moses are seen to be matched in the 5 segments of Matthew’s Gospel,
and the way the Lord Jesus in imitation of Moses declared His
Law from a mountain. Indeed, the Lord Jesus parallels His words
with those of the Torah. In first century Judaism it was often said:
‘The person who hears the words of the Torah…builds on firm ground’
[see Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology p. 254].
The Lord Jesus purposefully alluded to that when He spoke about
‘The person who hears my words’ as building on firm ground
(Mt. 7:24-27). He saw His words as a new Torah.
The Sabbath And Israel
The Sabbath was the last day of the week, when God rested after
the six days of creation (Ex. 20:10,11). As Sunday is the first
day of the week, it would be incorrect to observe this day as the
Sabbath. The Sabbath was specifically “a sign between me (God) and
them (Israel), that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify
them” (Ez. 20:12). As such, it has never been intended to be binding
on Gentiles (non-Jews). “The Lord hath given you [not all
mankind] the Sabbath (Ex. 16:29); “thou [God] madest known unto
them [Israel] thy holy Sabbath” (Neh. 9:14).
The Sabbath Is Part Of The Old Covenant
Jesus once commented on a theological problem: a baby boy had to
be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. If this day fell on
a Sabbath, then work would have to be done. So which law should
be kept, circumcision, or the Sabbath? Jesus replied that circumcision
had to be honoured, because this came from Abraham, whereas the
Sabbath law was later, from Moses: “Moses gave you circumcision
[not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers - i.e. Abraham]…”.
If the law of circumcision took precedence over that of the Sabbath,
how can it be argued by some that the Sabbath law is binding but
that of circumcision isn’t? And how can it be argued that a Sabbath
law was in force from Eden onwards? Circumcision was the
token of the covenant with Abraham, whereas the Sabbath was the
token of the law of Moses (Ex. 31:17), and Jesus judged that the
covenant with Abraham was more important. Paul uses the same kind
of argument, when he reasons that the new covenant given to Abraham
[which included no command about the Sabbath] is something which
cannot be added to or disannulled. He asks, therefore,
why it was that “the law…was added” (Gal. 3:15,19)? He
replies that the law was added, by implication temporarily, seeing
that the new covenant cannot really be added to, in order to teach
men about sin and lead them to an understanding of Christ, the promised
seed of Abraham. Now that Christ has come, we are not under the
The Sabbath Is Irrelevant To Salvation
Therefore through Christ’s death on the cross, the Law of Moses
was done away, so that there is now no necessity to observe the
Sabbath or, indeed, any festival, e.g. the day of Christ’s death
(Col. 2:14-17). The early Christians who returned to keeping parts
of the Mosaic law, e.g. the Sabbath, are described by Paul as returning
“to the weak and miserable principles (N.I.V.), whereunto ye desire
again to be in bondage. Ye observe days (e.g. the Sabbath), and
months, and times, and years (i.e. the Jewish festivals). I am afraid
of (for) you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Gal.
4:9-11). This is the seriousness of attempting to keep the Sabbath
as a means to salvation. It is clear that observing the Sabbath
is irrelevant to salvation: “One man esteemeth one day above another
(i.e. in spiritual significance): another esteemeth every day alike.
Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that observeth
(A.V. mg.) the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that observeth
not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it” (Rom. 14:5,6).
(1) This is all especially apparent in John's Gospel. John was
"unlearned and ignorant" (Acts 4:13)- according to C.H.
Dodd, "two technical terms for those who were ignorant of Torah"
(C.H. Dodd, The Interpretation Of The Fourth Gospel (Cambridge:
C.U.P., 1960) p. 82). If indeed keeping the Law is required of Christians,
we wonder why John is presented in these terms, and didn't go out
of his way to show himself Torah observant? Significantly, through
his Gospel John uses terms which were well known in Rabbinic Judaism
as referring to the Torah, and applies them instead to Christ. "Grace
and truth" was a common Jewish description for the Torah, and
yet John says that this came by Jesus, and not through the law given
to Moses (Jn. 1:17). Jesus, and not the Torah as the Rabbis believed,
is the way to life (Jn. 6:63); "truth" was now not Torah
as the Jews said, but the person of Jesus. Well known symbols for
the Torah such as wine, bread and water are used by John to describe
Jesus. And John purposefully alludes to Rabbinic passages about
the greatness of Israel and applies them instead to Christians.
Thus the Jewish writing Pirqe Aboth 3.19 claimed: "Beloved
are Israel, that they are called sons of God. Greater love was it
that it was known to them that they were called sons of God...".
Yet these very words are applied exclusively to the Christian believers
by John in 1 Jn. 3:1,2. He seems to be going out of his way to show
that the Lord Jesus is the new Torah for all those in Him, and it
is the community of Christ who are God's true people now, and not
Israel. Why would John do this, if indeed Christians are required
to be Torah observant?