Part 4: Summary / Final Statements
9-5-1 The Sabbath Is Not Binding Today
Mr. Duncan Heaster:
If there is no difference between the ceremonial and moral laws, how can you say that the ceremonial law was binding on the Jews only, but the moral laws on the Gentiles? If Sabbath keeping is a moral issue, then how could the priests by God’s command “profane the Sabbath” law, as Jesus said they did (Mt. 12:5)? Presumably according to Philip’s definitions they were being “immoral”, and so Jesus and the Mosaic Law would have commended them for immorality. If the Sabbath is an unchangeable moral issue, then it cannot be that morality is broken in this way. You can’t be immoral in order to be moral.
I don’t see that Philip has Biblically proved his contention that the Ten Commandments were and are binding on the Gentile world, but the other Mosaic commands were binding on the Jews alone. He wrote: “Only circumcised Jews could observe the holidays and go to the temple and make sacrifices!”. But this just wasn’t so. There is specific legislation, even encouragement, for the “stranger within thy gates” to keep Passover and offer the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:48; Num. 9:14). And they could definitely make other sacrifices too: “And if a stranger sojourn with you, or whosoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD; as ye do, so he shall do. One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you” (Num. 15:14-16). The stranger could also offer a sacrifice to atone for committing a sin of ignorance (Num. 15:26-29).
The argument from Romans 14 hasn’t been satisfactorily answered. Paul says that if someone wants to keep any day as especially holy, they are welcome, but it must be understood it is merely a matter of conscience. So it is not good enough to say that Paul is only speaking of some ceremonial Sabbaths. He is speaking of observing any day. And there is no evidence that Scripture makes any distinction between “moral” and “ceremonial” Sabbaths. Philip is forced to this conclusion because preconceived ideas demand it; but it is nowhere in Scripture.
I several times in my papers referred to Paul’s argument in 2 Cor. 3, where he described that which was “engraven on stones” as the Old Covenant which was being done away. And it was the Decalogue which was “engraven on stones”. The ministry of the Spirit has replaced that of those “letters”. And yet Philip makes no comment upon this. I leave readers to re-read the comments made about this in my earlier papers.
Philip has stated two things which seem to me contradictory:
1) The commands about killing Sabbath breakers should ideally be implemented today- even though these are not part of the Decalogue. They are therefore part of what Philip calls the “ceremonial law”
2) The “ceremonial law” has been done away and is no longer binding upon us.
I leave readers to reflect upon this. If all outside the Decalogue has been ended, then why insist that parts of it must still be kept? Philip says that the whole has been fulfilled in Jesus; and yet this is the very reason, according to Col. 2:14-17, that we do not need to keep the Law! Philip says that the ceremonial law doesn’t have to be kept because it was fulfilled in Jesus, and yet he says the entire Law was fulfilled in Him. Therefore logically he ought to accept that the rest of the Law likewise has been done away.
One could even argue from the Lord's teaching about new wine needing
new bottles that it is potentially destructive to a person to mix
the old and new covenants. A Christian trying to keep the Mosaic
law is likened to trying to tack old cloth onto new, or putting
old wine in new bottles. The result will be damage, because faith
in Christ and salvation by pure grace requires us to shed all ideas
of salvation by the works of law-keeping (Lk. 5:36-39). The fact Paul and the Lord Jesus both quote the Old Testament extensively, advocating the upholding of some of the principles and laws found there, is significant- because their lack of command to keep the Sabbath is a glaring omission. If indeed they intended us to do so, why don't they even once make the point?
Summing up, it seems to me that we humans shy away from the purity
and reality of God’s grace. We would all rather “do” something in
order to earn our salvation. Yet as Romans 6:23 points out, this
would mean that salvation would be a wage earned, rather than gift
given quite undeservedly. “Now to him that worketh is the reward
not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not,
but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith
is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:4,5). Most ‘Christian’ groups
include some elements of seeking salvation by works, and have therefore
in some form included some of the Mosaic system in their belief
structure: be it tithing, priests dressing up in robes, places of
worship which are treated as if God dwells in them, observing some
special days… whereas the reality is that we have sinned and deserve
death, eternal death, and only a salvation by pure grace can save
us. The Lord Jesus, as one of our nature, our representative, Son
of God and yet with human nature, tempted as we are yet without
sin (Heb. 4:15)…lived, died and rose again as our representative
sacrifice. We can appropriate that great salvation to ourselves
through immersion (baptism) into Him, as adults gratefully grasping
with both hands the gift of grace which is in Him. And we cannot
be passive to that grace, to the Hope of resurrection at the second
coming, to eternal life in God’s Kingdom on earth… which has been
enabled for those who accept the true Gospel in baptism. We must
live the life of response to grace, not in terms of fulfilling Mosaic
commands, but in seeking to simply reflect our experience of grace
in all spheres of human life. For this is, in its barest essence,
“the law of Christ”.
I appeal to all readers to give themselves no rest until they have learnt the true Gospel, believed it, and been baptized. I would be delighted to discuss any questions you may have and to send you a free copy of Bible Basics, a study manual enabling you to systematically analyze the message of the Gospel for yourself, in your own home. Or you can view it at www.biblebasicsonline.com.
May God bless us all towards His Kingdom.
Duncan Heaster, email@example.com