9-3-2 The Sabbath And Salvation
Mr. Philip Bartlett:
Duncan Heaster’s argument for the discontinuance of the Sabbath day is typical of most people who adhere to his position. Let us examine it point by point and then add a few additional comments. His first argument is
The Change In The Law
He argues that the old system of animal sacrifices of priests was done away after the death of Jesus Christ. He then uses Hebrews 7:12 to support his position that the entire law as expressed in the Old Testament has been completely abrogated. Is this the case however? Christ states in Matthew 5 that whoever fails to teach the least of the Old Testament commandments will be called least in the kingdom. In addition, I have already proven from my previous paper that the law in the Old Testament, with the exception of the ceremonial regulations was binding not only upon the Jews, but all of the Gentile nations. It is of course fitting then to find that in the context of Hebrews 7:12 the author is only talking about the priesthood, temple, and sacrifices. These were things only peculiar to the Jews and not binding on Gentiles. The author is saying that with a change of the priesthood, there must also come a change in the ceremonial law, or that law which is only binding on the Jews. Read Hebrews 7 and you will see that the inspired writer is only talking about the ceremonial law, there is no mention of any of what I would define as moral laws in the entire chapter. In addition, to say that the moral law has changed is to say that God’s eternal moral character has changed. This presents incredible theological difficulties for Duncan.
Problem Of Trying To Keep The Law
Heaster then argues that because I urge you to keep the Sabbath I am promoting salvation by works. Not correct. Calvinism and Lutheranism are the origins of the doctrine of justification by faith alone during the Protestant Reformation. I believe that you are justified by faith alone. Nowhere have I claimed that we are justified by keeping the Sabbath day. Because we are in Christ, the law no longer has the power to condemn us. Do we nullify the law because we have been saved by faith alone? Is the moral law completely done away as our standard of conduct now that we have faith? Paul says by no means in Romans (Romans 3:31, 6:1-2)! Rather we uphold and follow the Old Testament law of Christ as He commands in Matthew 5:
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:
I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or
one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of
these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called
the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach
them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter
into the kingdom of heaven. “
The Victory Of Jesus
I too promote and endorse the victory of Jesus. Part of the victory
of Jesus as world history progresses will be the eventually spread
of His law-word to the ends of the earth, and the conformity of
every nation to that Word. There will come a day when mankind will
obey the law of God from cover to cover, before Jesus returns again
as prophesied in numerous places including the Psalms. Duncan argues
on the basis of Col 2:14-17 that we no longer have to regard the
entire Old Testament law. However, if you look at the quote he provides
you notice all the specific things Paul lists in verse 17 are ceremonial
laws binding only upon the Jews! I have already explained that the
word “Sabbath” in this verse must be understood as the ceremonial
Sabbaths in Leviticus 23 and not as the moral Sabbath of the Ten
Commandments which was also binding on Gentiles. You can find this
reference in my first paper.
The New Torah
Duncan is right to say that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Torah
law. Notice however that Jesus in Matthew 5:17-20 is absolutely
adamant in stating that His fulfilling the Torah does not mean that
we are free to disobey the Old Testament law!
The Sabbath And Israel
In this section Duncan argues that because the Sabbath would now
be the first day of the week according to my argument, it cannot
be the fourth commandment since the fourth commandment mentions
the seventh day. I have answered this already in my previous article.
The commandment only commands six days of work followed by a seventh
day of rest, it does not demand that it be on the seventh day of
the roman calendar week.
The Sabbath Is Part Of The Old Covenant
In this section Duncan argues that since work had to be done in
circumcising a baby on the Sabbath, then the law of circumcision
took precedence of the Sabbath. Therefore, since it seems from this
that circumcision is more important than Sabbath keeping, and that
circumcision has been done away in the New Testament, how can we
argue for retaining the Sabbath? First of all you will notice that
God specifically makes an exception for religious work on the Sabbath.
The priests and religious leaders were able to work on the Sabbath,
and Christ affirms this into the New Testament. The Sabbath never
means a day of idleness. Idleness is not the biblical definition
of Sabbath. Christ commands us to perform works of worship (Christ
worshipped in the synagogue on the Sabbath), teaching (Christ read
in the synagogue on the Sabbath), mercy (Christ healed people on
the Sabbath), and nourishment (Christ allowed people to glean and
eat on the Sabbath). Therefore, circumcising a baby on the Sabbath
is absolutely no problem, because religious work is not only required
on the Sabbath, but it is commanded on the Sabbath! Proof that the
Sabbath is more important than circumcision lies in the fact that
the Gentiles and even the animals had to rest on the Sabbath (see
the fourth commandment), but only the Jews were required to be circumcised.
The Sabbath Is Irrelevant To Salvation
Here Duncan continues to argue from verses that tell us we no longer
need to observe special days. These passages are referring only
to the ceremonial Sabbaths and feasts, not to the moral Sabbath
which was even binding on the Gentiles and animals. The Gentiles
did not have to keep the Jewish feast days in the Old Testament.
He quotes: . “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).
Duncan readily admits that these verses refer to the Jewish festivals,
yet for some reason he lumps the moral Sabbath in there which was
binding not only on the Jews but also on the Gentiles as is clearly
stated in the fourth commandment itself. The strangers were bound
to observe the Sabbath as everyone else, even the animals were!
It is a universal commandment. To prove that Paul is referring to
Sabbaths other than the moral Sabbath in these verses all one has
to do is look at Leviticus 23:23-32, where we see that there are
ceremonial Sabbaths that have nothing to do with the moral Sabbath
which is still binding for us and on all Gentiles.
The Example Of The Early Church
Duncan then uses uninspired sources to prove that the church enforced a first day of the Roman calendar week observance. I agree with the conclusion of this section. I have already proven that the day was changed from Saturday to Sunday by example of Christ and the apostles, please refer to my opening statement for the proof of that.
No Difference Between Torah And Decalogue
In this section Duncan tries to prove that there is no distinction between the moral and ceremonial law. However it has already been proven by me in my opening statement that the Bible does make such a distinction. God says “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” thus saying that obedience to His moral commandments is preferable to having to make the sacrificial obligations of the ceremonial law to atone for your sin. There are two distinct law systems here. In addition, the Gentiles were bound to observe certain commandments (moral) and not others (ceremonial) proving that God also made the distinction in this way. Only circumcised Jews could observe the holidays and go to the temple and make sacrifices! Notice that it is these only that Paul lists as no longer necessary for NT Gentile Christians. The ceremonial law is “the law of commandments contained in ordinances” which is clear in Col 2:14-17. There is a clear biblical difference between moral and ceremonial law. Finally, Christ says clearly and emphatically in Matthew 5:17-21 that His moral law must continue to be followed in every way unless you want to be called LEAST in the kingdom!
Duncan then argues that the believers are priests and therefore exempt from the Sabbath. Not so, for Jesus never says the Sabbath is to be a day of idleness, but a day of works! Works of worship, teaching, mercy, and necessity as is demonstrated all throughout the gospels where the Pharisees wrongly accuse Christ of violating the sabbath are required on this day. Therefore the NT believers do work on the Sabbath just as OT priests did.
- The second objection that Paul nowhere mentions Sabbath breakers as a sin is an argument from silence. Simply because Paul does not mention it as a potential sin does not mean it cannot be one. Paul also did not mention bestiality as a potential sin, does that mean that bestiality is no longer sinful?
- As a Christian Reconstructionist who believes that the law of God must apply to every area of life, I do believe that a properly constituted civil government of God would indeed impose the death penalty for Sabbath violation on the testimony of two or three witnesses before a duly constituted civil court. This is no issue if one understands that God’s laws of civil justice remain in effect today as the eternal standard of His just nature. Nowhere does the New Testament do away with His civil laws and penalties. As nations eventually begin to covenant with God, they will model their government and civil system on God’s complete revelation. God punished the Gentile nations for not doing away with idolaters and other wicked people through the death penalty. Paul upholds the civil law in Romans 13, since the civil magistrate is to be the minister of God’s justice. God’s governmental justice is defined by the Old Testament civil statutes, one of which is the death penalty for Sabbath violation.
As you can see, Duncan’s arguments have failed to stand the test of biblical scrutiny. He fails to realize that countless laws of the Old Testament were binding not only on Jews but also on the Gentiles. Paul states in Romans 1 that the Old Testament law is written upon the heart of every Gentile. The Ten Commandments were not simply given to the Jews, but given to every nation and obedience is demanded of every nation. This is clearly proven in my opening statement where God punishes the Gentile nations for disobeying laws that Duncan argues are given only to the Jews. In addition, it is also clear that the temple, holidays, and laws of separation (clean and unclean foods, animals, seeds, clothes) were only needed to be obeyed by the Jews! The Gentiles were not forced to follow these laws when they visited Israel, nor does God ever mention punishing the Gentile nations for not visiting the temple and offering the yearly sacrifices. The Gentiles slaves and strangers were bound to obey the moral Sabbath, even the animals were (Exodus 20:8-11) Ancient and modern Rabbis confirm that there is such a legal distinction between laws only for Jews and laws also binding on Gentiles. The Bible clearly states that there are two systems of law running throughout Old and New Testaments. Part of the moral law, binding on both Jew and Gentile, is the weekly Sabbath day since it is stated in the Ten Commandments, the summary of the moral law. Ten is the number for completeness. The first four commandments are the summary of love to God, and the last six of love to neighbor. Christ binds us to all ten complete commandments when He tells us to “Love the LORD our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Christ warns us of doing away with any commandment that He does not in Matthew 5:17-20. Finally, Christ and the apostles are seen actively observing the first day of the roman calendar week as the Sabbath day, or Lord’s Day.