Thinking About Keeping the Sabbath?
By Larry and June Acheson
very now and then someone will ask June and me why we observe the weekly Sabbath day instead of worshipping on Sunday. We always try to give straightforward, yet concise answers, knowing that if we get into the details, the person asking the question is soon bored and wishing he hadn't asked the question in the first place. However, the down side to skipping over the details is that some folks will go to their local pastor or someone else they trust with Scriptural questions, and that person will offer a satisfactory explanation, leaving others with the impression that June and I have either backslidden into legalism or else just plain lost our marbles.
Recently some friends, concerned about our spiritual well-being, dropped off a magazine article that they felt would help us to see the error of our ways and get us back on track with the Biblical truth. They also invited us to visit their place of worship, where they meet on Sunday afternoons. The article they graciously offered us is titled "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" and they felt that the information it contains would help us to see that the Sabbath has been "taken away." It is only a five-page article, including the illustrations, but it contains what June and I consider the primary arguments used against Sabbath observance. If you would like to read the actual article, I am including a link for you here. I decided to address each argument from that article, one at a time, and then forward my response, not only to our friends, but also to the editor of the magazine. I am unable to personally address my response to the author because he apparently chose to remain modestly anonymous. Of course, it is an author's prerogative to remain anonymous, but responsible journalism enjoins us to exhibit responsibility for what we write by affixing our names to any form of public discourse that is open to debate. Omitting our names may be intended as a desire for others to focus on what was said rather than who said it, but cloaking one's identity can also serve as a convenient means of evading criticism. The impression we are left with is not so much that the author chose to remain modestly anonymous, but rather that he was not confident enough about the content to leave himself open to questions.
We later found that this organization's "answering department" representative chose to remain anonymous as well. Later in our study, we will give you the opportunity to review our brief letter exchange with this individual.
The article "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" could have been written by virtually any Christian denomination, so I am intentionally leaving out the name of the denomination responsible for authoring it. What follows is an adaptation of our response, presented in the form of a study. Although the article we were given only consists of five pages, you will notice that it took us considerably more space to answer each argument. That's because we chose to provide the details that we normally leave out when explaining our reasons for observing the weekly Sabbath. Whether you are considering Sabbath observance or trying to figure out how or why anyone could possibly choose to observe the weekly Sabbath, what we offer in this study is for you.
The article "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" begins ominously by portraying Sabbath-keepers as being overly eccentric or otherwise ditzy. In the three examples provided by the author, one group of Sabbathkeepers manned 70 roadblocks as they halted all traffic in Fiji as a part of their demand that the nation return to strict Sabbath observance. Another group, represented by devout Jews in Israel, enacted a law requiring all new buildings to have at least one elevator that is programmed to stop at each floor so as to prevent anyone from performing the "work" of pushing the elevator buttons on the Sabbath. The final example, from the island of Tonga, doesn't even include Sabbathkeepers because the day they keep holy is Sunday. Nevertheless, the activities they prohibit, such as not allowing aircraft to land or any ships to dock on that day, are inclusive of those that would not be permitted by the fourth commandment of Scripture. These three examples exhibit a common approach used by authors who compose articles designed to ridicule or otherwise discredit the practice or belief represented by each respective group. In this case, the intent seems to be that of portraying Sabbathkeepers everywhere as being rather unstable in their ways. This negative seed, once successfully planted in the minds of those who may have begun reading the article with an open mind, subtly guides them in the wayward, unappealing direction intended by the author.
It's not really fair to single out extreme practices embodied by representatives of any group because virtually every denomination out there has its share of extremists. As it turns out, June and I, although we do our best to observe the weekly Sabbath in a manner that is pleasing to our Heavenly Father, do not agree with the methods exhibited by any of the groups cited by the author. While we certainly support Sabbath observance, we do not support forming roadblocks as a means of protesting the fact that others disagree with our view, nor do we believe that pushing a button should be construed as "work." Finally, while we agree that a nation enforcing Sabbath observance would forbid aircraft from landing (except in emergency situations), we do not agree that the weekly Sabbath falls on Sunday. Ancient Judaism is recorded as having observed the weekly Sabbath from what we now know as Friday evening until Saturday evening.
The author summarized his introduction by stating, "As the above examples show, many people feel that God requires them to keep a weekly Sabbath day. In fact, some say that Sabbath-keeping is of utmost importance, believing that it involves our eternal salvation. Others feel that the most important commandment from God is to keep the Sabbath. What is the Sabbath? And does the Bible urge Christians to observe a Sabbath day each week?"
As a professing Sabbath-keeper, I feel obligated to share my perspective in response to the above summary. First, I would ask, "Has our Heavenly Father commanded the observance of the weekly Sabbath day?" I can confidently answer that yes, He commanded all Israel to observe the weekly Sabbath. Shown below is what is commonly known as the fourth commandment, as found in Exodus 20:8-11:
8¶ Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10But the seventh day is the sabbath of Yahweh thy Almighty: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11For in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Yahweh blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
In view of the fact that our Heavenly Father clearly commanded His people to observe the weekly Sabbath, the question really isn't whether or not our Creator requires His people to keep a weekly Sabbath day – the question is, "Does He still require His people to observe the weekly Sabbath?"
Secondly, neither June nor I have ever stated or implied that our eternal salvation depends on whether or not we keep the Sabbath. Whereas some folks may choose to regard this issue from the angle of salvation versus condemnation, June and I prefer the Luke 17:10 approach. This is where the Messiah (Whom we refer to as Yeshua instead of Jesus) said:
10So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Rather than approach Sabbath-keeping from a "do it or die" perspective, June and I approach it from a "love" perspective. If we feel that our Creator wants us to do something, regardless of whether or not we have the correct understanding, we feel duty-bound to do it – not because our salvation is hanging in the balance, but because not doing what we feel He wants us to do is a clear demonstration of rebellion, not love. If we love Him, we will keep His commandments, just as Yeshua explained in Matthew 19:17 and affirmed by the Apostle John in I John 5:2-3:
2By this we know that we love the children of the Almighty, when we love the Almighty, and keep His commandments.
3For this is the love of the Almighty; that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.
Finally, the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" listed a third characteristic that might exemplify some Sabbath-keepers: that some Sabbath-keepers believe the most important commandment from our Creator is the one about keeping the Sabbath. I'm sure some Sabbath-keepers feel that the Sabbath is the most important commandment, but that certainly does not describe June and me. Since the Bible does not provide a list of "Most Important Commandments," we do not feel anyone is justified in attaching levels of importance to any commandments. The Sabbath stands out because, out of all of the Ten Commandments, it is the primary commandment singled out by Christians as having been "done away." The other nine, it is reasoned, were either retained or else done away, then "brought back" under the new covenant.
For example, promiscuity is becoming commonplace within Christendom, yet adultery is still considered just as sinful now as it was at Sinai. I suppose that if Christendom were to have universally taught that adultery was "done away" while retaining the other nine commandments, some who, like June and me, believe adultery is a sin, would teach that it is the "most important commandment." We would still disagree with such a notion. Thus, it seems to us that it isn't so much a question as to which commandment is "most important," but rather, which commandment is most neglected, ignored and disregarded. Many Sabbath-keepers answer that the fourth commandment is the most neglected.
The second portion of the article "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" provides us with an accurate definition of the word "Sabbath." We read, "The English word ‘Sabbath' comes from a Hebrew word meaning ‘rest, cease, desist.'" This is true. I might also add that, according to Strong's Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, this word (שׁבּת ,#7676) also means "intermission." Regardless of whichever day one might choose to rest on each week, many scholars, including those from the medical field, agree that we all need a weekly "intermission" from our daily grind. For example, Jordan S. Rubin, PhD., in his book The Maker's Diet, wrote, "Besides giving us the night for regular sleep, the Creator programmed people and animals to rest completely every seventh day. When we tinker with His design, things start to unravel. Even the Creator rested on the seventh day." Another author, Kevin Trudeau, in his book Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About, authoritatively states, "Rest from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown." Mr. Trudeau's restful suggestion comes in a very brief three-sentence commentary, found in an otherwise vast sea of healthful advice, so I strongly doubt that he is out to promote a Sabbath-keeping agenda. The point, then, is clear: Our Creator designed us to need a weekly day of rest. The question is, "Which day of the week should we set aside for rest?"
According to the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" no one was ever commanded to observe the weekly Sabbath until the time of Moses. He states, "Although the Genesis account says that on the seventh day God rested from his creative works, it was not until the time of Moses that God's people were instructed to observe a 24-hour day of rest, or Sabbath. (Genesis 2:2)"
I find the above conclusion difficult to believe for several reasons. First, the author seems to presume too much. Just because the first recorded command to observe the weekly Sabbath is found in association with the Israelites' wilderness journey, this should not be construed as being the first-ever mandate to observe the weekly Sabbath. Secondly, we need to remember that the Almighty blessed the Sabbath day at the time of His having rested from His work (Gen. 2:3). Since Yahweh rested from His work that day, we know this means that He kept the Sabbath, setting the example for all who submit to His authority. Not only did He bless the Sabbath day, but he sanctified it, which means that He declared it a holy, set apart day. How could the seventh day have been set apart without a precept enjoining its observance? If I am expected to believe that mankind was not expected to keep the Sabbath day holy from the very beginning, then I must similarly be expected to believe that our Creator didn't intend for mankind to have the same regard for the seventh day that He had for it. Why would our Creator declare the seventh day as "holy," yet expect the creatures He created in His image to have no regard for it? Why would the Messiah declare that the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27) if, indeed, man was not expected to have any regard for it?
Another important item to remember is the fact that the first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses. Moses, at the time he would have composed the Creation account, would have understood that the sanctification of the seventh day not only meant that the Sabbath was set apart by the Almighty and for the Almighty (that's right, He keeps the Sabbath!), but also that it was intended for all of mankind. Why wait over 2,500 years to command His people to share in His Sabbath blessing? Why did Moses record that Noah, while waiting for the earth to dry from the Flood, sent the dove from the ark at seven-day intervals (Gen. 8:8-12)? Does this not strongly imply ancient knowledge of the seven-day week? Are we to believe that ancient knowledge of the weekly cycle excluded the understanding that we are to rest on the seventh day?
Finally, we read that Abraham obeyed the Creator's voice and kept His charge, His commandments, His statutes and His laws (Gen. 26:5). Since "weekly Sabbath" is not specified, shall we presume that it wasn't included among the commandments that he so faithfully obeyed? Of course, many do make this presumption. We regard it as a mistaken presumption, not only because we know the Sabbath was made for all men (Abraham included), but also because it does not make sense to believe that Yahweh would withhold knowledge of the day He blessed and sanctified from the man He chose to bless in such a mighty way. What did the Almighty's commandments that Abraham obeyed consist of? Since we are not specifically told, is it wise to presume that the weekly Sabbath was excluded? Since the Almighty blessed and sanctified the seventh day and created it for man, is it not reasonable to presume that it was included among the commandments that Abraham so faithfully obeyed?
We therefore do not agree with the author's assessment that the Almighty's people were not instructed to observe the weekly Sabbath until the time of Moses.
The next section of the article "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" is entitled "Did Jesus Keep a Weekly Sabbath?" The author addresses the fact that the son of the Almighty observed the weekly Sabbath, but he then expresses the belief that it was subsequently "taken away" after His death. I will demonstrate that the authors of the New Testament did not agree this conclusion.
First, I feel the author should be commended for conveying the understanding that the Messiah observed the weekly Sabbath. He wrote, "Yes, Jesus did observe the Sabbath." We agree! In contrast, a few theologians have written that Yeshua "did away" with the Sabbath during His earthly ministry. A 4th century theologian named Epiphanius offered a classic demonstration of this approach in his work entitled The Panarion:
(1) But both the lame-brain's Sabbath observance and circumcision, and the daily baptisms of which he makes use, stand discredited; for Jesus made a point of healing mostly on the Sabbath. And it was not just that he heals, but he heals in two ways. (2) He directs the persons he has healed to pick their mattresses up and walk. Moreover, on the Sabbath he made clay and anointed the blind man's eyes, but the making of clay is work. (3) Hence, since the apostles had learned from their association with him and from his teaching that the Sabbath had been abolished, they plucked ears of grain on the Sabbath, rubbed them in their hands and ate them.
I am glad that most scholars, including the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?", disagree with Epiphanius' conclusions as stated above. Yeshua explained why He healed on the Sabbath in Luke 13:11-17, and when His critics heard the answer He gave to the synagogue ruler, they were ashamed. With regard to the account of Yeshua making clay on the Sabbath day to anoint the blind man's eyes (John 9), this amounted to Him spitting on the ground and using the resulting mixture to do the anointing. Only by rabbinical decree could such an act have been deemed a violation of the Sabbath precept. Yeshua Himself rightly expressed the true spirit of Sabbath observance when He said, "Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days" (Matt. 12:12). Thus, anointing the blind man's eyes, being an act of selfless giving of time and energy to help His fellow man, was most certainly not a violation of the fourth commandment.
What about the incident of Yeshua's disciples plucking the ears of grain on the Sabbath? Yeshua did not defend them by stating that the Sabbath was abolished, nor did He explain that plucking the ears was an acceptable thing to do on the Sabbath day; rather, He drew an analogy between what they were doing and what King David once did when he and his men were hungry, but the only available food was the temple shewbread, which was only lawful for priests to eat. King David and his men ate the shewbread, yet they were neither punished nor scolded for violating this law. No lightning bolts descended upon them from heaven. This serves as a classic illustration of how the Almighty, in His mercy, made allowance for human need to supersede that law. In the same way, in the story of Yeshua's disciples plucking the ears of grain (Mark 2:23-28), they were at that time far away from home in the area of Capernaum and obviously had nothing to eat and nowhere to find food, except in a field of standing grain. Jewish tradition is such that no Jew will allow his fellow man to spend the Sabbath without food and lodging. However, it is apparent from this account that no one had invited the wayfaring Yeshua and His disciples in for the Sabbath. This did not prevent the Pharisees from keeping their watchful eyes on them in an attempt to catch them sinning, so Yeshua's response actually threw the criticism right back at them. Had they invited Yeshua and His disciples to share the Sabbath meal with them, His disciples would not have been compelled to find their food in a field of standing grain.
It wasn't until I read the following commentary from the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" that I became concerned about his understanding of New Testament writers, such as the Apostle Paul. He produced a generalization, then cited one of Paul's writings as supportive evidence of that generalization. He wrote, "Jesus was born an Israelite and as such was under Law, and that included the Sabbath law. It was not until after Jesus' death that the Law covenant was taken away. (Colossians 2:13, 14)" Not only do we disagree with the author's interpretation of Paul's words in Colossians 2:13-14, but I'm curious as to how this passage relates to the author's subject heading of whether or not Yeshua observed the weekly Sabbath.
In order to address our disagreement with the author's interpretation of Colossians 2:13-14, we need to review the text in question. A key word in this passage is the Greek word cheirographon, which is translated "handwriting" in the Kings James Version:
13And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14Blotting out the handwriting (cheirographon) of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Does verse 13 indicate that the Law covenant was "taken away"? No, it does not. Notice that it does indicate that all trespasses have been forgiven.
Verse 14, on the surface, might be considered as evidence that the weekly Sabbath was "blotted out," but if this one verse truly means that the weekly Sabbath was abolished, then the author is left with many other New Testament verses to explain, which we will address later in this study.
For the "handwriting of ordinances" to be inclusive of the weekly Sabbath day requires that the weekly Sabbath was "against us." Where in Scripture do we ever read that the weekly Sabbath is or was against us? Where do we ever read that the Almighty's law is or ever was "against us"?
If we carefully read the book of Colossians, we do not read a message explaining that the law was "done away." The message is not about being released from obeying the law; rather, it is a message of forgiveness from having disobeyed the law. As previously mentioned, the Greek word translated "handwriting" in verse 14 is the word pronounced "cheirographon" (χειρόγραφον, word #5498 in Strong's). This word can be demonstrated as being a specific reference, not to the law ("nomos," νόμος), but to the record book (charge list) of our sins. Yeshua's death does not release us from a moral obligation to obey the Torah; rather, His death blotted out, wiped away our sins.
The translators of the New Revised Standard Version understood the correlation between cheirographon and the record book of our sins. Here is how they translate Colossians 2:13-14:
13And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of our flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses,
14erasing the record (cheirographon) that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.
The above translation does not reflect the understanding that the law was "blotted out" or "erased." Rather, it is the record of our sins that was erased at Calvary. Other translators present this same understanding of the meaning of the original text. George Lamsa, in his Holy Bible From the Ancient Eastern Text, translated Colossians 2:14 as follows:
14And by his commandments he cancelled the written bond of our sins, which stood against us; and he took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Lamsa did not understand a cancellation of the law, but rather a cancellation of the "written bond of our sins." While it is true that the majority of translations favor a "blotting out" of the law, even though the word nomos does not appear in the book of Colossians, these translations do not explain how Paul, on the one hand, "establishes the law," then on the other hand explains that it was "blotted out." Such an explanation is also missing from the article "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?"
Greek reference tools reveal that cheirographon is best understood in its original form as an "IOU." Shown below is the listing for cheirographon as found in The New Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon:
5498 χειρόγραφον, -ου, τό (χείρ and γράφω), a handwriting; what one has written with his own hand (Polyb. 30, 8, 4; Dion. Hal. 5, 8; al.); spec. a note of hand, or writing in which one acknowledges that money has either been deposited with him or lent to him by another, to be returned at an appointed time (Tob. v. 3; ix. 5; Plut. mor. p. 829 a. de vitand. aere al. 4, 3; Artem. oneir. 3, 40); metaph. applied in Col. ii. 14 [(where R.V. bond)] to the Mosaic law, which shews men to be chargeable with offences for which they must pay the penalty.
Thayer's provides the ancient understanding of what a cheirographon is. As I mentioned above, it essentially amounts to an "IOU." Paul's point in Colossians 2:13-14, then, had nothing to do with the law being "erased." It was the "IOU" that we all owed which was eliminated and "nailed to the cross." Notice that Biblical scholar Joseph Henry Thayer, after defining cheirographon, proceeds to explain that it is applied to the Mosaic law, but not in the way commonly explained by various commentators. Thayer did not regard cheirographon as applying to the Mosaic law in the sense that the law is "against us"; rather, it applies to the penalty for not obeying it. Look at it this way: If we do not obey what the Father says, we pay the penalty. According to Mosaic law, that penalty is death. Since we have all sinned, we all must pay the penalty (the "IOU"). However, as explained by the Apostle Paul, that penalty has been expunged.
For those who simply do not understand that it was our debt that was removed instead of the law, I will simply explain that (a) the Greek word for Torah (nomos) does not ever appear in the book of Colossians, and (b) the best way to understand what the Apostle Paul meant by his comment that the "handwriting of ordinances" was blotted out is to find out what he didn't mean. Here are a few examples illustrating what he didn't mean, which should in turn help us to better understand what he did mean in his Colossians 2:14 comment:
* He didn't mean that he had disobeyed the law because in Acts 25:8 he said, "Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended (sinned) any thing at all." Paul later reaffirmed this same stand when he explained in Acts 28:17, "Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans." Presuming that the Apostle Paul was honest, he emphasized that he had never sinned against the law. Since Paul also taught others to follow his example (I Cor. 11:1), it does not follow that he taught anyone that the law was "blotted out."
What antinomian authors tend to leave unexplained is how a first-century Jew, having been trained to obey the Torah and to beware of those who might try to turn him away from following its precepts, should be expected to recognize a man whose death "did away" with the law as being the Messiah. After all, Daniel himself prophesied of a "little horn" who would eventually appear and attempt to change "times and laws" (Daniel 7). If, indeed, this is what the Messiah came to do, then he must be a false messiah – and a fulfillment of the prophetic "little horn" of Daniel 7. Jeremiah prophesied of a time when the Almighty will put His law in our "inward parts" and that He will write it on our hearts (Jer. 31:33). Note that He didn't say that He would produce a "new law" to write on our hearts. Why would He write His law on our hearts if it has been previously "blotted out"? It is little wonder that Jews are not easily converted to the Christian faith when, upon conversion, they are expected to believe that the Torah was "blotted out"!
Upon mentioning Colossians 2:13-14 as his proof text for believing that the law was "taken away," the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" proceeds to address one of the verses that contradicts his conclusion. Here is what he wrote:
True, Jesus did say: "Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I came, not to destroy, but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17) But what does the expression "to fulfill" mean? To illustrate: A builder fulfills a contract to complete a building, not by ripping up the contract, but by finishing the structure. However, once the work has been completed to the client's satisfaction, the contract is fulfilled and the builder is no longer under obligation to it. Likewise, Jesus did not break, or rip up, the Law; rather, he fulfilled it by keeping it perfectly. Once fulfilled, that Law "contract" was no longer binding on God's people.
The above commentary raises more questions than it answers. First, please consider the implications of the author's conclusion: Yeshua didn't come to destroy the Law, but within a couple of years He would abolish it. This is what he surely must believe. Since the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" expresses his belief that the Law was "taken away" at the time when he is persuaded that it was fulfilled, yet he agrees that Yeshua did not come to destroy it, then what exactly did Yeshua come to do with regard to the Law? Why didn't He just say, "Do not think I have come to destroy the law YET. In a couple of years, I will abolish it"?
Let's take a closer look at the word "fulfill." If, upon fulfilling an act, it is no longer binding, then we must believe that righteousness is no longer binding. To prove this, please consider what Yeshua told John the Baptist in Matthew 3:13-15 when John suggested that Yeshua should baptize him:
13¶ Then cometh Yeshua from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Yeshua answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Since Yeshua "fulfilled all righteousness" when He was baptized, and since (by the author's definition) "fulfilling" something means its previous requirements are no longer binding, shall we presume that righteousness is no longer binding on believers? This is the natural progression of the suggested line of reasoning presented by the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?"
Consider also the meaning of the Greek word translated "fulfill" (Greek πληρόω, "plērŏō"). According to The New Thayer's Greek English Lexicon, this word, as used in Matthew 5:17, denotes the following:
Universally and absolutely, to fulfil, i.e. to cause God's will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God's promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfillment: Mt. v. 17; cf. Weiss, Das Matthäusevang. u.s.w. p. 146 sq. [Comp.: άνα-, άντ-ανα-, προσ-ανα-, έκ-, συμ-πληρόω.]
I agree with the above reasoning – that Yeshua's use of the word "fulfill" had nothing to do with "completing a contract" that would result in the law being abolished (destroyed), but everything to do with causing and demonstrating how the Almighty's will should be obeyed. In this way, Yeshua not only fulfilled the law, but He also showed us how we should live our lives – by following His example of obedience.
Finally, I believe we can more fully grasp Yeshua's intended meaning by reading the very next verse (verse 18):
18For 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.
19Whosoever 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.
When we read both Matthew 5:17 and verse 18 in context, it should be clear that Yeshua is not hinting that all the law would be fulfilled within a couple of years. "Till heaven and earth pass" is pointing to a time in the very distant future. Moreover, please consider the ramifications of "till all be fulfilled," especially with regard to the Sabbath. According to Hebrews chapter 4, the Sabbath will not be fulfilled until that yet future day when we enter the promised heavenly rest:
4:1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
2For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
3For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And the Almighty did rest the seventh day from all his works.
5And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
6Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
7Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, Today, after so long a time; as it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
8For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
9There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of the Almighty.
10For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as the Almighty did from his.
11Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
The above passage, in our estimation, demonstrates that things were status quo with regard to Sabbath observance at the time it was composed. There is nothing suggesting that the weekly Sabbath had been either interrupted or "taken away." More importantly, the author speaks of a future "rest" that remains for the people of Yahweh. A "Sabbath rest" that remains unfulfilled.
Isaiah, likewise, speaks prophetically of Sabbath observance in the yet-unfulfilled future. Shown below is Isaiah 66:22-23:
22For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith Yahweh, so shall your seed and your name remain.
23And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Yahweh.
Has the Sabbath referenced above by the prophet Isaiah come to pass? Do those who teach that Yeshua "fulfilled the Sabbath," thus bringing an end to any obligations to observe it, likewise teach that the Sabbath described in Isaiah 66:23 has been fulfilled?
Consider also the way Luke, in Luke 16:17, quoted Yeshua's words:
17And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
Do these sound like the words of a Man who knew that the law was about to be abolished? Scholars agree that the book of Luke, in similar fashion to Matthew, could not have been composed prior to the year 60 CE. Thus, if we are to presume that Luke knew that the law had been "done away," he really needed to do a better job of explaining that, even though heaven and earth had not yet passed away at the time that he authored his account, the law had in fact already been "taken away" many years prior.
In Matthew 5:19, Yeshua plainly states that whosoever breaks one of these least commandments and teaches men to do the same shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. By teaching his reading audience that the Law was "taken away," the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" is inadvertently fulfilling Yeshua's admonition. It is plain from his article that he does not observe the weekly Sabbath; moreover, he teaches his readers to break the Sabbath commandment as well by informing them that it is no longer binding. As for June and me, we prefer to obey Torah – not because it makes us any better than anyone else – but because we want to please the Father and follow the example set by His son. We also want to heed Yeshua's cautionary advice as found in Matthew 5:18.
However, Yeshua didn't confine His expectations regarding Torah obedience to Matthew 5:18. In the 19th chapter, He made it even plainer. In verse 17 of that chapter, He said, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." This comment was made within days of Yeshua's death, burial and resurrection. It appears that the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" expects us to believe that Yeshua gave this advice, knowing that within a matter of days it would be obsolete. Then, in the 24th chapter, Yeshua told His followers to pray that their flight be not on the Sabbath day. Why suggest such a prayer if the Sabbath was about to be "taken away"?
Over the years, we have posed these and so many other questions to those who teach that the Sabbath has been "done away." The responses we have received thus far have been less than satisfactory; however, if any non-Sabbathkeepers believe they have reasonable answers, we will consider them. For a more thorough commentary on Matthew 5:17-19, we invite you to read our study titled Matthew 5:17-19: Does Fulfilling the Law Mean That It “Hath an End”?
In the author's section entitled "Did Jesus Keep a Weekly Sabbath?" he reached what I feel is a very premature conclusion regarding the meaning of the Greek word translated "fulfill." I have already presented my view with regard to the proper understanding of "fulfill," and it does not mean "done away when someone keeps it perfectly" or whatever other deeper meaning one may pull from this word. The author's mistaken understanding of what "fulfill" means then leads him to offer his readers what we believe is a distorted commentary on his interpretation of Colossians 2:16-17. Here is what he wrote:
Since Christ fulfilled the Law, are Christians obligated to keep the weekly Sabbath? Under inspiration, the apostle Paul answers: "Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath; for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to Christ."—Colossians 2:16, 17.
Those inspired words suggest quite a change in God's requirements for his servants. Why the change? Because Christians are under a new law, "the law of the Christ." (Galatians 6:2) The former Law covenant given through Moses to Israel came to an end when Jesus' death fulfilled it. (Romans 10:4; Ephesians 2:15) Did the commandment about keeping the Sabbath also come to an end? Yes. After saying that "we have been discharged from the Law," Paul went on to refer to one of the Ten Commandments. (Romans 7:6, 7) So the Ten Commandments—including the Sabbath law—are part of the Law that came to an end. God's worshippers, therefore, are no longer required to observe a weekly Sabbath.
Just as we disagree with the above author's interpretation of Colossians 2:13-14, so we likewise disagree with his interpretation of verses 16-17.
First, I do not agree with the author's impression that Paul's words suggest a change in the Almighty's requirements for His servants. The mere fact that he was compelled to use the word "suggest" demonstrates his understanding that Paul did not actually come out and declare unequivocally that there is a change in our Creator's requirements. Why didn't he?
I previously made the point that anyone raised to obey Torah, upon being presented with a teaching that a certain "messiah" came who brought about the dissolution of the law, would immediately recognize such a new teaching as a fraud. If one is raised to understand the Torah as the Creator's message to His people – His method of revealing His ways to us – but someone comes along who informs us that a certain "messiah" took that law away, it shouldn't be too difficult to recognize the bearer of such news as a false teacher! When we are presented with the requirement to simultaneously recognize Yeshua as the Messiah along with the understanding that the Torah is "done away," it should immediately become clear that something is wrong with that expectation, not just because Yeshua told His followers to not even think such a thing, but also because the Torah cautions us to beware of those who would entice us to discontinue obeying those instructions (Deut. 13 et al). The more I reflect upon the typical responses we would hear from Torah-observant believers upon being told about a messiah who came to take away the law, the more I am persuaded that Paul needed to do more than "suggest" that there was a change in the Torah requirements. He needed to make bold statements to that effect! A Jewish believer, having been trained to obey the Torah, would naturally be skeptical of anyone who came along teaching him or her not to do so! It is little wonder that Judaism is so slow to recognize Yeshua as the Messiah – and it's all due to a "bum rap" wrongly attributed to Him. Instead of teaching His followers that the Torah would be "taken away," He forthrightly taught exactly the opposite: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
The Apostle Paul, instead of preaching and teaching about the Sabbath no longer being a commandment that needs to be obeyed, made it clear that covenant-breakers, as well as those who approve of this behavior, are worthy of death (Romans 1:28-32); hardly the words of a man who approved of those who openly teach against Sabbath observance. Again, if Paul believed that Yeshua the Messiah came to "take away" the law, we need to read bold statements to that effect, not vague references that are open to more than one interpretation.
We now turn our attention to Colossians 2:16-17, which the author of "Did Jesus Keep a Weekly Sabbath?"quoted in his commentary above. Let's take a closer look at the phrase "Let no man judge you …." The Greek word translated "judge" is the word krinō. It is word #2919 in Strong's Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, and means "to distinguish, i.e. decide (mentally or judicially); by impl. to try, condemn, punish." As revealed by Strong's, Colossians 2:16 could just as easily have been translated, "Therefore let no man condemn you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath."
Why does it make more sense to translate the Greek verb krinō as "condemn"? To best answer this question, let's try to imagine what things must have been like in the city of Colosse during the first century. To begin with, it is a known fact that angel worship was predominant in Colosse. In fact, Paul alludes to this angel worship in Colossians 2:18:
18Let no man beguile you of our reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.
As we can see from the above verse, Paul was more concerned about the Colossian believers becoming involved in heathen customs than whether or not they observed the law. When we understand that Paul was instructing the Colossian believers to not allow anyone to condemn them for what they ate or drank, nor to allow anyone to condemn them regarding Sabbath or new moon observances, it becomes apparent that he was writing to a few scattered brethren who were sticking out like proverbial sore thumbs in a city dominated by heathen practices. It is very unlikely that Paul was instructing the Colossian assembly how to cope with those who passed judgment on them based on whether or not they observed the weekly Sabbath. Paul encouraged them to not allow anyone to condemn/judge them for what they ate or drank, for what day they worshipped on, or for observing new moon days. Each of these observances are commanded in the Torah and as we have already seen, the apostle Paul made it clear that he had never sinned against the law of the Jews. The "law of the Jews," while certainly attributed to Jewish practice and belief, is more specifically known as the Creator's law, given to Israel by Moses.
Finally, I feel obligated to mention here that well before my decision to observe the weekly Sabbath, I had read and studied the book of Colossians, including chapter 2:13-16. Those verses never struck me as consisting of Paul's informing the Colossian believers that the law had been "nailed to the cross." It wasn't until I found myself conducting personal research into why our nation no longer seems to keep Sunday holy that I stumbled across the interpretation that this passage proves the abrogation of the weekly Sabbath, as well as the rest of the law. Although, at that time, I worshipped on Sunday, I did not view Colossians 2:13-16 as a validation for this practice and belief.
It was while I was a young, enthusiastic lay leader at a non-denominational Christian church that the minister would occasionally ask me to present a sermon, and in June 1985, he made such a request in order that he could accompany the youth group on a canoeing trip. I am extremely nervous when it comes to public speaking, but I do like to help out whenever there is a need, so I agreed. However, I had no idea what topic I should address, so I asked him for advice. His response was, "You'll think of something!"
As it turned out, June and I had both been concerned about the way our nation seemed to be ignoring the sanctity of Sunday. Why was Sunday becoming so secular? At best, many had relegated keeping Sunday "holy" to attending a morning worship service. Even at our church, June and I noticed how many members couldn't seem to wait for the service to end so they could "beat the rush" to their favorite restaurant. We had, by this time, discontinued cooking on Sundays, doing all of our preparation the day before. We realized that many members of that church would have considered our treatment of Sunday as extreme, so we kept this aspect of Sunday observance to ourselves. At the same time, however, we felt that many members were leaning towards the other extreme! Something was wrong, and my pastor's request seemed to be the Almighty's way of opening the door for me to speak out in favor of keeping Sunday holy. I decided that just using Scripture as my supportive evidence would not be as effective as using other sources as well, so I paid a visit to the university from which I had graduated a few years earlier and spent an afternoon skimming through as many books and references as I could find in their expansive library. It was while reading an early 20th century book entitled Rest Days that I first learned that certain scholars believe that Colossians 2:13-16 proves that the Sabbath was "taken away":
Though Jesus regarded the Sabbath as still binding on his followers, his teaching that it was a social institution designed for practical benefit to mankind, and not as a fetish, brought him repeatedly into conflict with the Pharisees, and called forth those utterances which have been so strangely neglected by sabbatarians in after ages: "For the Son of man is lord of the Sabbath"; "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath"; "My Father worketh [on it] even until now, and I work." Jewish Christians appear at first to have continued the observance of the Sabbath, but this practice met the unqualified condemnation of St. Paul; and one of the Epistles of St. Ignatius, who suffered martyrdom about 107 a.d., refers to Christians as "no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day (μηκέτι σαββατίζοντες, άλλα κατα κυριακην ζω'ντες), on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death."
Did Sabbath observance "meet the unqualified condemnation of St. Paul"? Those words jumped out at me to be sure, but the opening words of the paragraph were as eye-opening as the condemnation! Although I knew Yeshua never sinned, which includes Sabbath observance, I hadn't considered whether or not He actually taught His followers to do the same. As we have already covered, the answer is yes. But did the Apostle Paul later condemn the observance of the Sabbath? Again, as we have just covered, the answer is indisputably no. Even if we were to accept the notion that we shouldn't let anyone judge us with regard to whether or not we keep the Sabbath day holy, the implication is that if we do keep it holy, then they still shouldn't judge us. The author of Rest Days goes to the other extreme, suggesting that, indeed, Paul exhorts us to judge … condemn … those who observe the weekly Sabbath. Paul never wrote nor suggested any such thing.
I do not deny that if you search through commentaries, you will find that the majority of scholars agree with the author's conclusion that Colossians 2:16-17 validates believing that the Sabbath was "taken away" and even "nailed to the Cross." Those who are well acquainted with me know that I support checking out commentaries and other references as a part of diligently researching a matter, especially one as controversial as Sabbath observance. However, I also urge caution when reviewing the opinions of others, even if their name has a "Ph.d" after it. The late Dr. Curtis Vaughan, who was a Professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, had a name that was followed by B.D. and Th.D. Dr. Vaughan wrote several commentaries on the New Testament, including one that is found within The Expositor's Bible Commentary. I have frequently found this 12-volume commentary to be very helpful in my own studies, but if we were to accept at face value everything found written in all the commentaries out there, we would certainly end up extremely confused. This is why we must weigh the commentators' conclusions in the light of the Scriptural standard. Vaughan summarizes his understanding of Colossians 2:16 as follows:
"Religious festival," "New Moon celebration," and "Sabbath day" probably refer to various holy days of the Jewish calendar—annual, monthly and weekly. The reference to "Sabbath day" points clearly to the Jewish calendar, for only Jews kept the Sabbath. That being the case, "religious festival" and "New Moon celebration" must point primarily to the ritual calendar of the Jews. Paul's thought is that the Christian is freed from obligations of this kind (cf. v.14; Gal 4:9-11; 5:1).
If we are to accept Curtis Vaughan's conclusion, we would be compelled to agree that Messianic believers are under no obligation to observe the weekly Sabbath. While I appreciate gaining other perspectives with regard to the interpretation of Scripture, I am simultaneously bound to weigh those perspectives against other Scriptural teachings. For example, in my previous section, I pointed out the importance of learning what the Apostle Paul didn't mean before we reach premature conclusions of what he did mean. It is in this light that I remain persuaded that Paul didn't mean the law is "taken away" by virtue of the fact that he "established" the law (Romans 3:31). He didn't mean that we shouldn't observe the law by virtue of the fact that he wrote, "The doers of the law shall be justified" (Romans 2:13). He didn't mean that he himself didn't observe the law by virtue of the fact that he testified of his own obedience in Acts 25:8. Certainly, if the Apostle Paul was attempting to persuade us that we shouldn't obey the law, he needed to present his argument more clearly.
As it is, we are left with conflicting interpretations by different commentators. Curtis Vaughan, as we read above, concluded that believers are "freed" from obligations such as weekly Sabbath observance. Nineteenth century scholar A. R. Fausset, on the other hand, expressed a different view in his commentary on the same passage in Colossians:
the sabbath—Omit "THE," which is not in the Greek (compare Note, see on Ga 4:10). "Sabbaths" (not "the sabbaths") of the day of atonement and feast of tabernacles have come to an end with the Jewish services to which they belonged (Le 23:32, 37-39). The weekly sabbath rests on a more permanent foundation, having been instituted in Paradise to commemorate the completion of creation in six days. Le 23:38 expressly distinguished "the sabbath of the Lord" from the other sabbaths. A positive precept is right because it is commanded, and ceases to be obligatory when abrogated; a moral precept is commanded eternally, because it is eternally right. If we could keep a perpetual sabbath, as we shall hereafter, the positive precept of the sabbath, one in each week, would not be needed. Heb 4:9, "rests," Greek, "keeping of sabbath" (Isa 66:23). But we cannot, since even Adam, in innocence, needed one amidst his earthly employments; therefore the sabbath is still needed and is therefore still linked with the other nine commandments, as obligatory in the spirit, though the letter of the law has been superseded by that higher spirit of love which is the essence of law and Gospel alike (Ro 13:8-10).
As presented by A. R. Fausset, the Apostle Paul's reference to "sabbaths" has nothing to do with the weekly Sabbath. It thus appears that Fausset supports believing that the other laws, apart from the weekly Sabbath, were "taken away." I have already pointed out that I believe the Apostle Paul was exhorting the Colossian believers to not allow anyone to condemn them for their observance of the Sabbath, new moons and festival days. Thus, while I agree with Fausset's view that the weekly Sabbath was not "taken away," I nevertheless disagree with his overall interpretation of the Apostle Paul's message. My point, then, is that we really need to be careful when it comes to relying on commentaries. I frequently use commentaries, especially when it comes to reinforcing my interpretation of a certain text, but this should never be so construed as meaning that I support everything that any particular commentator believes.
When it comes to reviewing any commentator's view that, in Colossians 2:16-17 the Apostle Paul meant for his readers to understand that the Sabbath was "taken away," I need to see how that same commentator explains the things that Paul didn't mean. In the case of The Expositor's Bible Commentary, they do not satisfactorily reconcile such verses as Colossians 2:14-16 with, say, Romans 3:31, where the Apostle Paul "establishes" the law. Here is an excerpt of The Expositor's Bible Commentary's attempt:
Paul has twice mentioned law observance (vv.27, 28) as not entering at all into justification, which is by faith apart from works of the law. May we draw the conclusion, then, that the law is useless? By no means, the apostle would answer, for the operation of faith really upholds or establishes the law. The gospel establishes the law in that the latter is vindicated. The law has fulfilled a vital role by bringing an awareness of sin (v.20). A broken law made the redeeming work of Christ at the cross necessary (vv.24, 25). One who sees that the cross was a divine necessity will never feel that he can make himself approved by God by fulfilling the law's demands. If that were possible, Christ would have died in vain. Since the death of Christ was in terms of God's righteousness (v.26), this means that the demands of the law have not been set aside in God's plan of salvation.
As you can see by comparing The Expositor's Bible Commentary's treatment of Colossians 2:14-16 with their analysis of Romans 3:31, the one conclusion is that believers are no longer under obligation to observe the law; the other conclusion is that "the demands of the law have not been set aside." While it is true that two different individuals provided the respective commentaries for this work, nevertheless, anyone relying on The Expositor's Bible Commentary for understanding whether or not we should obey Torah would likely come away confused.
Not long after June and I began observing the weekly Sabbath, we attended a Bible Study on the book of Romans in which the central topic was Sabbath observance. This Bible Study took place in the home of our dear friends whom we had known for several years while still attending a Sunday-keeping organization. We regularly met in their home on Tuesday evenings with around ten or so other believers, and even after our decision to observe the weekly Sabbath we continued attending their Bible Study. At first, when the announcement was made that we would begin a study of the book of Romans, June and I thought nothing of it. However, it wasn't long before we looked ahead in the study book to see what sort of lesson it had in store for Romans 14:5, which is a key verse used against Sabbath observance. Let's review this passage in order to get some context into what June and I were up against:
Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
2For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for the Almighty hath received him.
4Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for the Almighty is able to make him stand.
5One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Master; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Master he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Master, for he giveth the Almighty thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Master he eateth not, and giveth the Almighty thanks.
7For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8For whether we live, we live unto the Master; and whether we die, we die unto the Master: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Master's.
9For to this end Messiah both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Master both of the dead and living.
10But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Messiah.
11For it is written, As I live, saith the Master, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to the Almighty.
12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to the Almighty.
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
I provided the first twelve verses of Romans 14 in order to dispel any concerns about quoting anything out of context. Certainly, if I were to only cite verse five, I could understand why someone might come away with the understanding that Paul exhorts us to worship on whichever day seems best to us personally. If someone wants to set aside Sunday as a holy day, then we should respect that decision. If someone prefers to set aside Monday, then, again, we should respect that decision. And, hey, if someone insists on continuing to observe Saturday, then go easy on them! Yes, I can see how someone might come away with such an interpretation of Romans 14:5 if they had no other context or background information.
However, when we read the entire chapter, we should notice a few peculiarities that shed a different light on what Paul was proposing to the believers in Rome. The peculiarities are not so much founded on what Paul wrote as they are on what he didn't write. For example, you will not find the word "Sabbath" in Romans chapter 14. Neither will you find the word "law" in that chapter. This is especially significant in view of the fact that Paul had already informed the Roman believers that he "established" the law (ch. 3:31). If Paul, on the one hand, intended his brothers to understand that he established the law, then why would he, on the other hand, expect them to understand that it's no longer the seventh day that we are to keep holy, but rather whichever day an individual believer chooses to set aside?
Let's face it: If I were to tell you that I "establish" and uphold the Torah, then what would you think of me if I later informed you that you can keep the Sabbath on whichever day you esteem most?
This brings us to the Tuesday night Bible Study group that June and I attended. As I mentioned, when we looked ahead in our study guide, we could tell things were going to get interesting when we got to Romans 14. However, we had to wait until we reached Lesson #12 before that particular Bible study could be held! Since we only completed one lesson per week, we knew we had quite a wait ahead of us!
However, the "big night" finally arrived. The study guide consisted of a small book entitled Romans: The Gospel for All, by Keith L. Brooks. Lesson 12 was entitled "Righteousness Manifested in Daily Life." On page two of that lesson, we are instructed to read Romans 14:4-6 and answer the following questions:
* What shows plainly that the Old Testament sabbath law was not in effect under the gospel?
* Is the particular day of the week that is kept the essential thing?
* Has any person a right to judge another over a matter of what day of the week is kept unto God? (Colossians 2:16)
For each of the above questions, the study guide provided space for us to write a brief answer. For the third question listed above, not only did it reference Colossians 2:16, but it also offered the following commentary—just to make certain we reached the desired conclusion:
Some Jewish believers in the early Church still clung to Saturday worship as a permanent moral obligation in addition to the first day or Lord's day. Paul saw no harm, even if they kept every day in the week holy unto the Lord. Those who had the greater light concerning the resurrection day were to bear with them in love. It was not a matter to bar fellowship, so long as they were fully persuaded in their own minds. The same might be said of Seventh Day Adventists of our own day were it not for their acceptance of more serious errors based on alleged revelations to Mrs. Ellen White.
While June and I share the above author's sentiments pertaining to Ellen White, whom Seventh-Day Adventists consider to have been a prophetess, we do not agree with his interpretation of Romans 14:5. For one thing, he commits the same blunder as The Expositor's Bible Commentary. This commentary, as I previously demonstrated, on the one hand agrees that the Apostle Paul's "establishing the law" in Romans 3:31 means that the law was not "set aside." On the other hand, this same commentary maintains that believers are no longer obligated to observe the weekly Sabbath. As the saying goes, "You can't have it both ways." Keith L. Brooks, who compiled the study guide for Romans, made it very clear that those who have the "greater light" observe Sunday instead of Saturday, which in turn means he must believe that Sabbath observance is no longer binding. The fourth commandment, as all Bible students know, makes no provision for observing the Sabbath on any day other than the seventh day.
What Mr. Brooks fails to explain is why, on the one hand, he does not believe we should obey the fourth commandment while, on the other hand, he agrees that the law is morally binding on all believers. This is what he wrote in the section of his study guide that addresses Romans 3:31:
The apostle proceeds now to bring out the proofs of the position stated in Romans 3:21-31:
a. Righteousness by faith is witnessed by the law and the prophets (3:21).
b. By faith boasting is excluded (3:27).
c. The gospel does not set aside but establishes the law (3:31).
Like it or not, those who share Keith L. Brooks' views regarding the book of Romans are left with the conundrum of having to explain why the same apostle who "established" and upheld the law (Torah) also upheld the abrogation of the weekly Sabbath (which is commanded in the Torah).
Sadly, June and I were the only ones in the Bible Study group who could see the obvious contradiction in Keith L. Brooks' study guide. Yes, they agreed that the Apostle Paul established the law, but this wasn't the Torah law he was establishing – it's "Christ's law." Of course, no one was able to spell out just exactly what that law consists of, nor could they explain how this same law – according to Romans 3:21 – is presented as "righteousness without the law."
As the Bible Study discussion began, we all read Romans 14:1-5 and individuals volunteered to answer the questions from the study guide. It didn't take long for me to raise my hand in protest of the first answer given. The first question, as already noted, was, "What shows plainly that the Old Testament sabbath law was not in effect under the gospel?" The desired answer was something like this: "Romans 14:5 shows that the sabbath law is not in effect because we are told that we should each be ‘fully persuaded in our own minds' as to which day we want to observe as the Sabbath instead of being bound to a certain day of the week."
I protested, explaining that not only do we not find the word "Sabbath" in Romans 14, but that the primary topic seems to be that of food. I had read somewhere that during the period of time in which the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, certain self-righteous Jews had been arguing about which days of the week were better for fasting. As Yeshua Himself pointed out, many Jews routinely fasted twice each week (Luke 18:12). However, there seems to have been a controversy over which days were most suitable for fasting. Some believers felt that they should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, whereas Jews typically fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. The Apostle Paul, in Romans 14, appears to have attempted to settle the dispute by encouraging the believers that, on whichever days they chose, they observed them for the Almighty and not for boasting or for other self-serving purposes.
To my amazement, when I offered the above explanation, the host's wife uttered an exclamation of surprise agreement. I quickly learned, however, that she wasn't the source of agreement. She had been browsing through either a commentary or a reference Bible, and the accompanying explanatory notes outlined this same Jewish controversy regarding the best days on which to fast. This woman was well-known among her peers as an outspoken and influential person, so her exclamation of surprise agreement, at least from the book which she had been reading, was a welcome reprieve from an otherwise passive and unresponsive audience. "Wow!" I thought. "Does this mean that she is finally open to observing the Sabbath?"
However, nothing more came of the discussion. Although no one at that Bible Study protested the argument that I presented, and even though the host's wife read a scholarly commentary that agreed with my explanation, the topic of the weekly Sabbath was never again broached at any subsequent Bible Study. In fact, June and I eventually began to sense that we were the proverbial "outsiders looking in" at the Bible Studies, so a few months later we decided it would be best for us to discontinue attending. We were both heartbroken over the stark reality of the situation – which would effectively bring an end to a friendship that we had cherished for five years. On the night of that final Bible Study, I had to go by myself – as I recall, it was because June had to stay home with our children for some reason. I have no memory of how that final Bible Study went or what the topic of discussion even was, but I will always remember my departure. I waited until everyone else had left, and as I made my way out the door, I struggled to find the words to say. I'm not sure how I worded things, but I do remember that it was somewhat of an apologetic farewell as I explained the obvious separation between us. The host's wife seemed well prepared for our decision. With a smile on her face, she said, "We were wondering when you and June would shake the dust from your shoes at us!"
I was totally unprepared for her remark. I guess I was expecting her to try to persuade us to stick around and to explain how we can all learn from each other. Pushover that I am, I probably would have agreed. But I didn't know how to respond to her melodramatic, fatalistic comment. Later, it occurred to me that I should have answered, "But how could we shake the dust from our shoes at those whom we love so much?" However, those words are words that really had to be spoken right away in order to be effective, and I missed the opportunity. I realize our decision to discontinue meeting with the Bible Study group has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but at the same time it serves as a small illustration of how lonely the road can be when you decide to follow Scripture instead of your heart. We had already left over 100 friends a year earlier when we began observing the Sabbath, so when we stopped attending the Tuesday evening Bible Studies, we had no friends. They were our last hope for friends in that rural area who would either accept us or at least seriously consider the path we had chosen. Something to think about the next time you sing the song "Where He Leads Me I Will Follow."
Does Not "Observing Days" Mean We Should Be Fully Persuaded to Not Observe Any Day as the Sabbath?
Our previous section's title not only presented inquiry regarding Romans 14:5, but also Galatians 4:10-11. What about Galatians 4:10-11? For the sake of brevity, I will present the summary that we offer in our study "The Sabbath in Galatians." Galatians 4:10-11 is typically cited as proof that the Apostle Paul criticized the Galatian believers for observing the weekly Sabbath and other holy days. Here is the text in question:
9But now, after that ye have known the Almighty, or rather are known of the Almighty, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
10Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
11I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
In view of what we have already gleaned from our study of Romans 14:5, it should be clear that Paul would not have criticized any fellow believers for observing the weekly Sabbath. From the perspective of those who believe Romans 14:5 is an admonition from Paul to be tolerant of those who observe whichever day seems best "in their own mind," it hardly seems likely that he would change such a tolerant message to the Romans into a critical one directed at the Galatian assembly. On the one hand, according to our Sundaykeeping friends, Paul encourages us to let everyone be "fully persuaded in their own mind" regarding which day they wish to observe. On the other hand, these same Sundaykeeping friends believe the Apostle Paul chastised the Galatian believers for "observing days" such as the weekly Sabbath!
As we mentioned earlier, you can't have it both ways!
In our study entitled "The Sabbath in Galatians," we demonstrate that Paul's admonition to the Galatian believers is more likely a rebuke against those who cast lots for their "lucky days." The modern day equivalent to this would be those who insist on checking their horoscope before considering business ventures, marriage, etc. While the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" does not specifically use the text of Galatians 4:9-11 in his article, on the final page he provides a chart in which he lists this passage as a proof text while writing, "The apostle Paul was concerned about Christians who put emphasis on observing special days.—Galatians 4:9-11." Thus he, like many within nominal Christianity, on the one hand believes that Paul expected us to be understanding of others' decisions to worship on whichever days seem best to them, while on the other hand, we should be "concerned" about those who put emphasis on observing "special days." Might the author's reference to "special days" be inclusive of the weekly Sabbath? For the sake of those who use this passage in discouraging Sabbath observance, I feel it is necessary to address it here in this response.
In our previous section, I pointed out that some individuals in our Tuesday night Bible study felt that when the Apostle Paul "established the law," the law he was establishing was not the Torah, but rather "the law of Christ," as though the Messiah had implemented a new set of laws for believers to follow after His death and resurrection. Of course, they never explained, at least to our satisfaction, how the Apostle Paul never seemed to have gotten the message. Otherwise, why did he state in Acts 25:8 that he had never offended (sinned against) the law of the Jews? Not only does the "law of the Jews," which is actually the law of Yahweh, enjoin Sabbath observance, but it also directs us to teach that law to our children (Deut. 6:1-7). For Paul to have taught disobedience to that law would have been a violation of it in and of itself, resulting in parents not teaching it to their children.
Nevertheless, in his study entitled "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath," the author raises the same objection – that we should now obey "the law of the Christ" – while avoiding informing his readers of what that law consists of. It seems to me that the Messiah's law is the Almighty's law, as in He made no changes to that which was already defined as "perfect" (Psalms 19:7). We have already addressed what Yeshua taught His followers to do with regard to Torah; His obedience in no way minimizes our need to follow His example (I Peter 2:21-25), and His example was to obey Torah.
The author's next section suggests that we are under a "new constitution," which simultaneously consists of new laws. This would be fine – if the One implementing those new laws informed us what those new laws are. Here is what the author wrote:
The change from the Israelite to the Christian system of worship could be illustrated this way: A nation may change its constitution. Once the new constitution is legally in place, people are no longer required to obey the former one. Even though some of the laws in the new constitution may be the same as those in the former constitution, others may be different. So a person would need to study the new constitution carefully to see what laws now apply. Additionally, a loyal citizen would want to know when the new constitution went into effect.
I actually agree with the analogy as provided above. The only question is, "Has the Almighty changed His constitution?" If so, His Son never informed us of what changes were made. As loyal citizens, we need to study the "new constitution" very carefully. In this particular instance, we need to study the new constitution – the New Covenant – to see where we are instructed to no longer observe the weekly Sabbath day. Thus far into our examination, we have reviewed the verses that, in the author's estimation, serve as his primary witnesses to validate his case. In each instance, however, flaws have been exposed.
When it comes to the New Covenant, which so many folks insist has ushered in a new set of laws, all June and I see is a new priesthood that ministers this new constitution. The Levitical priesthood, which had become morally and politically corrupt, had disqualified itself. Other than that, we see no other changes. The author of Hebrews understood that the change in the priesthood of necessity effected a change in the law, but it seems that everyone is intent on "throwing the baby out with the bath water." Does a change in the priesthood mean we can no longer observe the weekly Sabbath? No, but it does mean there are no longer daily sacrifices or sacrifices made in association with the weekly Sabbath.
I recommend a careful reading of Hebrews chapter 7, where the author plainly presents Yeshua as the high priest Whose "unchangeable priesthood" completely overshadows the Levitical priesthood, which is now made obsolete. I will cite the majority of this chapter because I feel it is so vital in understanding that a change in the priesthood does not signal the end of Torah:
The author of the above text plainly understood that the change in the priesthood brought about a "change in the law." A "change" in the law should not be confused with a cancellation of the law, which many seem to draw from this passage. As we are about to read from the book of Galatians, a certain law was added during the time that Moses led Israel through the Wilderness -- the law pertaining to the Levitical priesthood with its sacrificial requirements. For a law to be "added," an existing law had to already be in place. The law that was already in place included the law pertaining to the day that was blessed at the time of Creation -- the weekly Sabbath day -- the very law that many would have us to believe was "changed," or as the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath" teaches, "taken away." None of the other nine commandments, such as stealing, murder or adultery, were affected. Those laws, claim Sundaykeepers, are more permanent than the one commanding us to remember the weekly Sabbath. The law they believe was "changed," then, is none other than the weekly Sabbath. But on what basis? None that June and I have ever been shown.
When I read the book of Hebrews, I don't come away with the feeling that any changes have been made with regard to the fourth commandment, and no passage illustrates this more effectively than what we just read from the seventh chapter. If that "change of the law" represents the annulment of the weekly Sabbath, this chapter was where the change needed to be clarified and specified. Rather, the change presented in Hebrews 7 is the law pertaining to the priesthood – the sacrificial system. Yeshua is embodied in both the Victim and the Minister – the High Priest who offered Himself. This High Priest, however, did not spell out any other changes to the Law that our Creator gave to Moses.
Continuing on with the author's "new constitution" analogy, here is what he wrote:
In like manner, God provided over 600 laws, including 10 main ones, for the nation of Israel. These included laws about morals, sacrifices, health matters, and Sabbath-keeping. However, Jesus said that his anointed followers would constitute a new "nation." (Matthew 21:43) From 33 C.E. onward, this nation has had a new "constitution," founded on two basic laws—love of God and love of neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-40) Although "the law of the Christ" includes instructions that are similar to those in the Law given to Israel, we should not be surprised that some laws are very different and that others are no longer required. The law pertaining to the observance of a weekly Sabbath is one of those that are no longer binding.
A key point that I feel needs to be reinforced is the fact that the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" makes it so plain that, in his estimation, the observance of the weekly Sabbath is no longer binding. He not only makes this statement in the above commentary, but elsewhere in his article as well, such as the comment, "So the Ten Commandments—including the Sabbath law—are part of the Law that came to an end." Why is this point that he words so plainly not so plainly worded in Scripture? Why do we have to rely on someone's interpretation to conclude that the weekly Sabbath is "no longer binding"? It would have been a small thing for any of the New Testament authors to have forthrightly written something to the effect of, "The weekly Sabbath is no longer binding." However, they did not. Please consider the ramifications of such a teaching. It is recorded that over 3,000 Jews were baptized in one day as a result of hearing Peter's brilliant appeal to recognize Yeshua as the Savior, the anointed of the Almighty. His speech mentioned nothing about any laws being "taken away" or "no longer binding." If he had mentioned that the weekly Sabbath is "no longer binding," would 3,000 Jews have converted?
Something else that concerns me regarding the author's commentary above is his treatment of our Creator's moral laws and health laws, which he seems to believe were also abolished. He wrote, "These included laws about morals, sacrifices, health matters, and Sabbath-keeping." Since he lumps morals and health matters in with Sabbath-keeping, this certainly creates the impression that he believe those laws were also "taken away." I would like to inquire about the specific moral laws and laws pertaining to health matters that the author believes came to an end. The impression he leaves me with is that morals and health laws are abolished!
Another remark from the above commentary that I find disturbing is this one: "However, Jesus said that his anointed followers would constitute a new ‘nation' (Matthew 21:43). From 33 C.E. onward, this nation has had a new ‘constitution,' founded on two basic laws—love of God and love of neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). " Those two "basic laws" are nothing new to Yahweh's "constitution," and have always been in place. Yeshua was only reinforcing the importance of Torah obedience and how those two "basic laws" essentially summarize the whole of the Torah's purpose. The commandment to love our Creator is found in Deuteronomy 6:5:
5¶ And thou shalt love Yahweh thy Almighty with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
The commandment to love our neighbor is found in Leviticus 19:18:
18¶ Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am Yahweh.
Thus, the two "basic laws" forming the foundation of what our unnamed author dubs Yeshua's "new constitution" are nothing "new" at all. They have always been understood as being of vital importance, both before and after Yeshua's death and resurrection. How about the author's proof text supporting the formation of a "new nation"? He cited Matthew 21:43. Let's take a look at that verse. Yeshua had just told the Parable of the Wicked Tenants to the chief priests and elders, and then He made it clear that they are the wicked tenants:
43Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of the Almighty shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
I believe the "nation" referenced by Yeshua represents a nation consisting of the antithesis of the priests and elders with whom He was conversing – a nation that will bear the fruits of righteousness, which includes obedience to the Almighty's laws. Yeshua had already made it plain in Matthew 19:17 that if we are to enter into Life, we must keep the commandments, but now the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" is saying that's not what Yeshua really meant. Do you see why the author's perspective is so confusing? It seems to me that if we truly want to hone in on what "the law of the Christ" really is, we should just turn to Matthew 19:17. Verses such as John 8:29 and 10:27-28 seal the matter. He gave no "new laws" to His sheep:
If Yeshua obeyed the commandments and taught His followers to do the same, then how do we conclude that we should discontinue observing the weekly Sabbath without any clear statements to that effect? Why do we need folks like the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" to provide an interpretation of isolated verses that, as we have just seen, can be interpreted in more than one way?
In the next section of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?", the author asks if the Almighty has changed His standards. Certainly, if the weekly Sabbath is no longer a "standard," then the answer, from his perspective, must be a resounding, "Yes." However, he says the answer is, "No," which only adds to the confusion:
Does this change from the Law of Moses to the law of the Christ mean that God has changed his standards? No. Just as a parent will adjust the rules he makes for his children, taking into consideration their ages and circumstances, God has adjusted the laws his people are required to obey. The Apostle Paul explains the matter this way: "Before the faith arrived, we were being guarded under law, being delivered up together into custody, looking to the faith that was destined to be revealed. Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith. But now that faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor." —Galatians 3:23-25
In response to the above commentary, I would like to first point out that I have already addressed my disagreement with the author's definition of "the law of the Christ." If this is the Messiah's law, then He is the one Who is qualified to define His own law, and He made it plain that we are to "keep the commandments." Secondly, if the Almighty has indeed "taken away" the fourth commandment, then He really has changed His standards! To illustrate my point, I will cite a modern-day example. If a company requires all of its employees to attend an annual training session for security protocols, but later rescinds the requirement, this means there has been a procedural change, which is also considered a change in the company's standards. Thus, if the Almighty once required His children to observe the weekly Sabbath, but later rescinded that requirement, His standards changed at that point.
Another dimension that the author adds to his argument involves incorporating a text from the book of Galatians (Gal 3:23-25). The gist of his interpretation is that the law was a tutor to lead us to the Messiah, but now that we've been led to Him, we don't need the tutor any more. Apparently, this reasoning seems logical to many folks, including the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" However, if we incorporate everything we have covered thus far – what the Messiah Himself told us – what the Apostle Paul practiced – how the Apostle Paul "established" the law – the missing statements in the New Testament specifically spelling out the abrogation of the fourth commandment – when we put all these together, it becomes clear that we need to re-examine the text from Galatians cited by the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" What is he missing?
June and I have written a study outlining our specific concerns regarding the author's interpretation of Galatians. It is too lengthy to incorporate here, but the above points notwithstanding, I will also mention that we need to read the entire chapter in order to grasp the context of what Paul was communicating to the Galatian assembly. Citing two isolated verses may appear to validate the author's position, but when they are examined in their proper context, it becomes clear that he is missing Paul's point. For one thing, if we go back up to verse 17, this law was added 430 years after the Almighty's covenant with Abraham was established. As previously mentioned, Abraham is recorded as having observed the Almighty's commandments, His statutes and His laws (Gen. 26:5), which we believe was inclusive of the Sabbath. Therefore, we do not believe the Sabbath was an "added" law.
Moreover, in Galatians 3:19, we find that the law was "added" because of transgressions. Are we to believe that the weekly Sabbath, ordained from Creation, was added because of transgressions?
I am persuaded that the "added law" is not Torah, but rather the law pertaining to the Levitical priesthood. The priesthood consisted of much more than a bunch of men who carried out ritual sacrifices. They were also saddled with the responsibility of teaching the law to the children of Israel. They were the tutors who safeguarded the law by teaching others to obey it. This priesthood was the forerunner of the ultimate high priest, Yeshua the Messiah. Now that He has come, He is our Master and Teacher. We are no longer under the tutor represented by the Levitical priesthood.
I realize that the author and others of his persuasion may not agree with my interpretation, and that's fine. Nevertheless, it certainly resolves the inconsistencies that I see with his interpretation. I haven't even mentioned the inconsistency of believing that if we are no longer under a tutor, this means that everything the tutor taught is now made void. This is what the author seems to promote. If the tutor is truly represented by the Torah, which includes the fourth commandment, and if we are no longer under that tutor – which means we no longer need to abide by what that tutor taught us to do – then of what benefit was the tutor to those who never kept the law before being converted to faith in the Messiah?
To put it another way, if the weekly Sabbath "tutorial" guided the children of Israel to the Messiah, that is fine for them, but what about those who never observed the weekly Sabbath before learning about Yeshua? What benefit does the weekly Sabbath offer those people? What benefit does any of the Torah offer those people?
The author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" continues with his "tutor" example by providing the following analogy:
How does Paul's line of reasoning apply to the Sabbath? Consider this illustration: While at school, a student may be required to learn a certain subject, such as woodworking, on a particular day each week. However, upon entering the workforce, he may need to use the skills he learned, not just on that one day, but on every day of the week. Likewise, while under the Law, the Israelites were required to set aside one day every week for rest and worship. Christians, on the other hand, are required to worship God, not just one day per week, but every day.
I believe the above reasoning is flawed and here's why: First, in the author's example, the student applies what he learned by the tutor (at school) every day of the week. However, in the author's previous paragraph, he established that the student is no longer under a tutor, which implies that what he was taught to do (such as observe the Sabbath) no longer applies. In other words, on the one hand the author established that no longer being under a tutor = no longer practicing what the tutor taught, while on the other hand his analogy has the student applying what the tutor taught every day of the week!
Which is it? No longer observing the Sabbath at all or observing it every day of the week? The author answers the question as follows: "Christians, on the other hand, are required to worship God, not just one day per week, but every day." I'm not sure what the author means by this exhortation, but I am certain of what he doesn't mean. He doesn't mean that believers should observe the Sabbath every day. To do so would require not working seven days a week, whereas the fourth commandment specifies one day of rest – the seventh day. Also, observing the Sabbath "every day" would be at odds with the author's previously-established interpretation of Galatians 4:9-11, where he feels the Apostle Paul expressed "concern" about believers who put emphasis on observing "special days."
Certainly, since worshipping the Almighty must include obeying Him, and since we are servants to whom we obey (Romans 6:16), worshipping Him is a 24 x 7 lifestyle. As such, we should indeed worship Him every day. However, this is nothing new! Believers have always understood this to be true! No true believer has ever practiced a lifestyle of sin for six days followed by worship of the Almighty on the seventh day! Worshipping the Almighty has always been a 24 x 7 lifestyle, including observing a day of special rest and worship on the seventh day. In the author's analogy, the student continues "worshipping" the Almighty – except He chooses to discontinue resting on the seventh day. Again we ask: Of what benefit was the tutor?
The author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" concludes his article with the following paragraph:
Is it wrong, then, to set aside one day every week for rest and worship? No. God's Word leaves such a decision to each individual, saying: "One person decides that one day is holier than another. Another person decides that all days are the same. Every person must make his own decision." (Romans 14:5, God's Word) While some may choose to view one day as more holy than others, the Bible clearly indicates that God does not expect Christians to observe a weekly Sabbath.
Here the author raises the same argument that we addressed previously in this study (see "What About Romans 14:5 and Galatians 4:10-11?"). We explained that Romans 14:5 is best understood in the sense that Paul was attempting to resolve a dispute over which days were better for fasting. Not only does the word "Sabbath" not appear in Romans chapter 14, but we do not believe the author reasonably grasps the consequences of applying his understanding of this verse. Let me explain what I mean.
As I referenced at the beginning of this study, the friends who visited our home also invited us to attend their place of meeting for fellowship on Sunday afternoons. Fellowship is a wonderful thing. It is a time for believers to meet, study, sharpen, and encourage each other while strengthening the bonds of friendship. However, I am persuaded that we should meet on Saturdays, not Sundays! How, then, can we achieve the desired benefits of fellowship if we meet on different days? Unless we agree to meet on the same day each week, there can be no fellowship!
The author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" proposes that the Apostle Paul exhorted the Roman believers to each "make his own decision" regarding which day he or she set aside for rest and worship. One believer might choose the second day of the week. Another believer might choose the fourth day. Someone else might choose the sixth day, and on and on. If there was a large enough contingency, this might suffice to produce some congregations sizable enough to provide the fellowship for whichever day an individual might choose to set aside. However, think of the separation (not to mention confusion) that this would encourage and cultivate. How does the author propose achieving unity when different individuals and groups rest and worship on different days? The resulting splinter groups would never get to know each other unless they were to mutually agree on a certain day to meet. Is this what the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" really believes the Apostle Paul had in mind? If so, then why do all members of the organization he represents in the United States mutually agree on one day, the first day of the week, as the day on which they regularly set aside for meeting? Is it not because it is the day on which most citizens, secular and Christian, take off from work? It would seem that the organization represented by the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" makes their decision to meet on Sunday based on the decision already made by the nations in which they live, i.e., "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
In the article "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?", the author provided a "side issue" commentary pertaining to what he perceives as being a Sabbathkeeper's dilemma: The International Date Line. We stress that he perceives this as being a problem because that is precisely what it is – a misguided perception. We cite the author's entire commentary below, followed by our response:
The international date line presents a challenge for those who believe that they must keep a weekly Sabbath on the same day everywhere. The date line is an imaginary line that runs for the most part through the Pacific Ocean along the 180th meridian. Countries to the west of the date line are one day ahead of those to the east.
For example, when it is Sunday in Fiji and Tonga, it is Saturday in Samoa and Niue. So if a person keeps the Sabbath in Fiji on Saturday, members of his religion in Samoa, just 711 miles away, would be working because it is Friday there.
Seventh-Day Adventists in Tonga keep their Sabbath on Sunday, reasoning that by doing so, they are keeping the Sabbath at the same time as their members in Samoa, a little over 500 miles away. However, at the same time, Seventh-Day Adventists less than 500 miles away in Fiji are not resting because it is Sunday there, and they observe the Sabbath on Saturday!
The above commentary constitutes what is known as a "red herring" argument. A "red herring" argument is one which distracts the audience from the issue in question through the introduction of some irrelevancy. In this instance, a non-existent problem is presented involving the International Date Line.
There are several ways of exposing the weaknesses of this particular argument. To begin with, we should consider the fact that the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" agrees that the fourth commandment was in force prior to the Messiah's death and resurrection. Judaism certainly knew which day of the week on which the weekly Sabbath fell, and certainly the Creator knew which day of the week He blessed, and He knows which day of the week it is anywhere on His creation. If an individual is considering making a move to Fiji, Tonga or Samoa but is confused over which day represents the first (and seventh) day of the week, maybe he or she should reconsider!
Secondly, if Seventh-Day Adventists in Tonga observe the weekly Sabbath on Sunday, which is the first day of the week, this means they work on the seventh day of the week, which is contrary to the directive found in the fourth commandment. As the expression goes, "That's their problem!" If I were to find myself living in Tonga, I would observe the weekly Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. If I were confused about whether or not the seventh day is really the seventh day, I would either move to a location where I could be certain or else I would make a conscious decision, based on my own personal research, to either accept or reject the placement of the date line.
Something the author omitted from his commentary is the fact that the International Date Line was originally placed west of Tonga, which would have had them "on the same page" with Samoa.
This brings us to the solution of the problem. Over the years, there have been many debates over the placement of the International Date Line. We have even heard arguments that it should be placed in Israel. In our opinion, the Date Line is just fine right where it is! Here's why:
Those who are familiar with what is known as "Continental Drift" understand that, in the distant past, the continents were connected. Currently, most continents are separated by thousands of miles of ocean. Scientists have different theories as to how the continents became separated. Many believe the separation was gradual, occurring over a period of millions of years. Others, like me, believe it occurred suddenly. I personally believe the Great Flood of Noah's day produced cataclysmic changes affecting the face of planet earth, including the vast separation of the continents.
With this in mind, if we go back to the pre-Flood days, when the continents were still joined together, there would have been one immense land mass separated at both ends by thousands of miles of water. Here's an artist's conception of what the earth may have looked like at that time:
Figure 15.2 The supercontinent of Pangea
In the above illustration, I added the red line to depict the approximate placement of the original International Date Line prior to the Great Flood. Notice that no land is affected at all! As a result, in the above scenario, no dateline controversies would exist because all mankind would be "on the same page," so to speak.
The red line in the above illustration illustrates where I personally believe the Almighty originally designated the "zero population" center of the earth for the original date line. It was there that He separated the land from the waters – in the middle of the earth – in the middle of the Creation week. It was there that another "separation" took place ... and the "great light" (Gen. 1:14) was involved. The "great light" was used to separate one day from another in that location. Since there would have been no one living where the waters were separated from the land, there could have been no "date line controversy" in the beginning. Later, at the time of the flood, when the one land mass was broken up, localized population centers crossed over into the date line area. Those whose lives are affected by this "interference" are free to either resolve the apparent "problem" the best they can or else move away to a less problematic area. Either way, it has absolutely no bearing on whether or not our Creator expects His children to observe the weekly Sabbath.
A few months after our friends gave us the magazine which contains the article "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?", two representatives from that assembly, Cynthia and Karen, stopped by to visit. Of course, the topic of the weekly Sabbath was addressed. While no minds were changed, at the same time I believe we came to a better understanding of each other's position and the discussion remained generally respectful. A major hurdle that we do not feel our friends were able to overcome lies in understanding how one law can be "established" (Romans 3:31), yet "ended" (Romans 10:4). We have already reviewed Romans 3:31, but Karen felt that we took verse 31 out of context, so we will quote the preceding verses in this section so as to ensure that we remain faithful to the original intent:
Romans 3:19 ¶ Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before the Almighty.
Comment: Many take this verse to mean that true believers are no longer obligated to observe the law. However, if we review the second half of verse 19, we find that the actual implication given by Paul is that "all the world" is under the law, since we are all "guilty before the Almighty." Moreover, if we are to understand that we are no longer subject to obeying the Creator's laws, this must likewise mean that we could argue in favor of such things as adultery, stealing and murder being "done away." Since our friends do not regard those laws as having been "done away," it is clear that their primary focus is the eradication of the weekly Sabbath.
Karen protested my comment, explaining that the Messiah approved of two commandments – that we are to love the Almighty with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our minds (Matt. 22:37) and that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). Certainly, when we commit adultery, steal and murder, we are not showing love to our neighbors. Karen certainly understands the importance of the Creator's laws when it comes to showing love to our neighbors, but we do not believe she understands the importance of His laws when it comes to showing love to Him. If we love Him, we will not worship idols, we will treat his name with honor, and we will remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy … unless, of course, He changes His mind about any of those commandments. If He has changed His mind about the weekly Sabbath, we certainly need something more clear than anything presented by the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?"
We now continue with our reading of Romans 3:
This is yet another verse that many use in justifying their belief that we no longer need to obey the law. Since no flesh shall be justified by performing the deeds of the law, why bother, right? That is the general conclusion reached by many. However, let's not forget the final clause in verse 20: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. If there is no more law, there can be no more sin.
Comment: What does "righteousness of the Almighty without the law" mean? Does it mean we can be considered righteous by ignoring the law? We hope most believers agree that the answer to this question is no. At the same time, many folks actually believe that the law is completely "done away," and all we need in this "dispensation" is faith. This is what Cynthia stated. However, as we reminded her, faith without works is dead (James 2:17).
I am persuaded that many of us do not study the Apostle Paul's writings while considering the "issues of the day" that he was responding to. If the "issue of the day" was whether or not the Sabbath was abolished, we can be sure that we wouldn't need to interpret Paul's writings in order to get the message. The "issue of the day" was salvation by works. Many believers were openly teaching that unless the law was fully obeyed, we would not be saved. One example of this was the teaching that "unless you are circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). You can be certain that this wasn't the only law they were referencing. We have observed this same mentality even among professing Sundaykeepers that we have met. As a child who was raised in the Methodist faith, I remember a man who "escaped" from the hospital one Sunday in order to attend church. It turns out he had not missed a single Sunday attending church for something like 50 or 60 years. I'm not sure if he felt he would not be saved if he missed church, but this is the urgency that some to this day apply with regard to Sundaykeeping.
As it is with Sundaykeeping, so it is with observing the weekly Sabbath. As we established early in our study, June and I do not observe the Sabbath because our salvation might otherwise be hanging in the balance; we do it because our desire is to please our Heavenly Father. We do not keep the Sabbath out of fear; we keep it out of love. Do we keep it perfectly? I'm sure we don't, but we nevertheless aim for the perfection that was exemplified by the One who did – His Son, Yeshua the Messiah.
"Righteousness without the law," then, refers to a righteousness to which our obedience contributes nothing whatsoever. As the Apostle James summarized so neatly, it is through our works that we validate our faith. The fruit of our faith is measured by works of righteousness, but that doesn't save any of us because "all have sinned." Our salvation, then, is a free gift from the Almighty that cannot be earned. At the same time, it should not be taken for granted. When we eliminate works from the process, the result is the same now as it was in the days of Moses: rebellion against the Almighty.
Paul finishes his thought in verse 22 by establishing that the righteousness of the Almighty is reflected by faith in Yeshua the Messiah, Who, as we know, was without sin. He is the "lamb of Yahweh" who takes away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29). Without Him (not the law), we cannot be saved.
The Apostle Paul continues with his message to the Romans as follows:
Many of us are very familiar with verse 23. Our children were required to memorize that verse at the Christian school they attended. It's an important verse because it plainly underscores our helpless state. None of us has room to brag about righteousness because all have sinned and come short of His glory. However, Paul jubilantly explains that we have been "justified freely" by His grace (undeserved pardon) through the redemption made possible by the shed blood of Yahweh's Son, Yeshua the Messiah.
While many of us are already familiar with verse 23, very few seem to remember verse 25. Romans 3:25 is very significant when it comes to sorting out just what Paul did or didn't mean in this portion of his letter to the Roman believers, but most of the believers we've met over the years gloss right over it! Yes, we all agree on the first part of this verse – that Yeshua was sent to be the propitiation – the atoning sacrifice for our sins – through faith in His blood. If we understand that His shed blood atones for our sins, then we can likewise understand that by faith we recognize Him as the "perfect lamb" sent by His Father.
However, let's take a close look at the remainder of verse 25. His righteousness is the basis of the remission (passing over) of "sins that are past." This is significant because Paul is telling us here today that the Almighty "passes over" the sins we committed before turning to Yahweh and recognizing His Son as our Savior. It is true that many commentators would have us to believe that the "sins that are past" refer to sins committed prior to Yeshua's death on the cross. I believe they come up with this teaching because they would rather not believe that we could have sinned against a law that they believe had already been done away at Calvary. However, we are not in agreement with the position held by such scholars.
For one, let's remember who Paul was writing to: The believers in Rome, many of whom were converted from a non-Jewish lifestyle. The sins committed by the multitudes prior to Yeshua's death had no bearing on the faith of the Roman believers. However, their own sins, committed before their conversion, had plenty of bearing on their faith. Those sins, Paul explained, have been forgiven! Forget your previous lifestyle, your heathen past, even your criminal record – once the "old man" is buried and a "new man" raised (Romans 6:1-14), you are a "new creature" fit for service. Going forward, we are commanded to walk in "newness of life," not sinning, but bearing the fruits of righteousness.
Secondly, some commentators do not believe that "sins that are past" is an accurate translation from the Greek. For example, the Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible states the following:
But now that God can "set forth" Christ as a "propitiation for sin through faith in His blood," the righteousness of His procedure in passing by the sins of believers before, and in now remitting them, is "manifested," declared, brought fully out to the view of the whole world. (Our translators have unfortunately missed this glorious truth, taking "the sins that are past" to mean the past sins of believers – committed before faith—and rendering, by the word "remission," what means only a ‘passing by'; thus making it appear that "remission of sins" is "through the forbearance of God," which it certainly is not).
The above commentary makes it plain that, in the authors' estimation, "sins that are past" refer only to those sins committed by those who lived prior to Yeshua's death on the cross. We need to keep in mind that the opinions expressed by commentators, while they certainly carry more weight than the opinions of novice Bible students, are nevertheless interpretations. In this case, the interpretation offered by Jamieson, Fausset & Brown does not reflect the opinion of all commentators. For example, let's review the interpretation expressed by Adam Clarke, author of Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible. Here is Clarke's interpretation:
To declare his righteousness. "For the manifestation of His righteousness"; His mercy in saving sinners, by sending Jesus Christ to make an atonement for them; thereby declaring His readiness to remit all past transgressions committed by both Jews and Gentiles, during the time in which His merciful forbearance was exercised towards the world. And this applies to all who hear the gospel now; to them is freely offered remission of all past sins.
As expressed by Adam Clarke, the Messiah died for our past sins, but not so we can keep on sinning once we come to the knowledge of truth. If He died in order that we may continue sinning, this is the epitome of cheap grace. As brought out by Hebrews 10:26, once we receive the Almighty's grace, we must strive to live righteous lives:
Heb 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
10:27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
Paul has already informed us that it is by the law that we have the knowledge of what sin is. According to Hebrews chapter 10, once we come to the knowledge of truth, we need to stop sinning (breaking the law). Is the law we need to worry about here the same law that Yeshua the Messiah obeyed or is it an obscure, undefined law to which some men apply the term "law of the Christ"? I believe the answer should be clear. As stated previously, no one is better qualified than the Messiah Himself to define "law of the Christ," and His expectation is that we should "keep the commandments."
Finally, those who believe "past sins" refer to sins committed prior to Yeshua's death on the cross do not seem to fully understand the ramifications of such an interpretation. If the remission is for sins committed before Calvary, then how about the sins committed after Calvary? Why would Paul be concerned here about past sins and leave out sins committed after Calvary? We know that sin was not "done away" at Calvary because, for one thing, the Apostle Paul counsels us to not "continue in sin" (Romans 6:1).
Not only that, but if the remission of "past sins" is a reference to all sins committed prior to Calvary, think of all the evil men and women whose sins were forgiven: Cain, Korah, Jeroboam, Jezebel, Athaliah, Haman, not to mention the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, a city populated by so many evil citizens that Yahweh chose to destroy it beyond recognition.
Notice what the Apostle John had to say in reference to Cain:
1 Jn 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
12Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.
If we are to believe that Cain's "past sins" have been forgiven, then I can see how one might feel justified in adopting an "anything goes" lifestyle. However, Yeshua the Messiah settled the matter with His own summary of what lies ahead for sinners of His day (i.e., before His death on a cross) and beyond:
John 10:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His [the Son of Man's] voice,
29And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
In view of all the above, I believe it should be clear that June and I agree with Adam Clarke's view that "past sins" refers, not to sins committed prior to Yeshua's death on the cross, but to the sins that all believers committed prior to their conversion. For those who, like Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary, find fault with the translators' rendering of "past sins," I can only answer that this rendering has the blessing of The New Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon:
4266 προ-γίνομαι : pf. ptep. προγεγονως ; to become or arise before, happen before, (so fr. Hdt. down [in Hom. (Il.18, 525) to come forward into view]) : προγεγονότα άμαρτή-ματα, sins previously committed, Ro. iii. 25.*
According to the late Joseph Henry Thayer, who presumably understood what the Greek word proginomai (προ-γίνομαι) means, the reference in Romans 3:25 calls to mind "sins previously committed," as in "sins that are past."
It is regrettable that it required this much space for us to demonstrate that "sins that are past" means precisely what it says, but in view of the attempts we have seen to prove otherwise, we were left with no choice. As we move closer to the end of Romans chapter 3, Paul proceeds to further explain that we are justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law:
Romans 3:26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Yeshua.
27Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
28Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
From our perspective, the above verses serve to clarify what Paul had already explained: We have no business bragging about our good deeds! It is a fact that one of Paul's greatest challenges was presented by those who taught a "salvation by works" doctrine. If we are truly saved by our obedience, then we don't need a savior. If I were to somehow come up with the notion that keeping the Sabbath perfectly would give me eternal life, this would effectively annul any recognition on my part of the role that Yeshua would play in my salvation. This, then, is what Paul was up against, not a bunch of believers who thought they should obey the fourth commandment.
Now that Paul has made it clear that we have no room to brag about our "good works," he needed to "reign things in" and make certain everyone understood that justification by faith apart from works doesn't mean he's teaching against the law:
29Is he the Almighty of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
30Seeing it is one Almighty, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
31Do we then make void the law through faith? The Almighty forbid: yea, we establish the law.
The above passage addresses a very sensitive topic: Circumcision and the law. Volumes have been written regarding this topic, yet very few seem to understand the correlation between circumcision and the law. Briefly, those who study the issue of circumcision will find that Gentiles who convert to Yahweh were never commanded to be circumcised – unless they choose to keep the Passover (Ex. 12:43-49). Although Scripture does not come out and specify why non-Israelites were not required to be circumcised, I speculate that it's because circumcision is a rite of admittance into the government/nation of Yahweh. Once you are circumcised, you become a part of Israel and you are obligated to keep the whole law, including the Passover.
You might wonder what all this has to do with obeying the law. Plenty! Please remember that it was those of the circumcision (the Jews) who put the true Passover Lamb to death. While the Roman soldiers certainly played a role in His death, they weren't the ones responsible. In view of the fact that Yahweh can see the events of history thousands of years in advance, He knew that His Son's own people – the circumcised Jews – would be the ones who put Him to death. Thus, at the time of the annual Passover observance, only those who were circumcised were allowed to take in that innocent lamb on the 10th day of the month, when it was made a "family pet," then, on the 14th, put a knife to its throat and watch it die.
The uncircumcised were not permitted to participate in that annual ceremony because they were not the ones who were destined to put the true Lamb to death.
In view of this truth, can you imagine the confusion stirred up by the Jews who taught that the uncircumcised would not get to experience eternal life? This is what Paul and the other apostles were confronted with by those who were into bragging about their works, when all along they were clueless about the Almighty's plan.
When we read the above passage (Romans 3:19-31) in full context, I am persuaded that the message is not about abandoning the law. It is about the mistake of pointing out our obedience to it as evidence of our salvation, and it is about understanding that Gentile converts were never commanded to be circumcised (unless they chose to keep the Passover). Regardless of their decision to be circumcised or to remain uncircumcised, the main thing was, as it has always been, obedience to Yahweh's commandments:
I Cor. 7:18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
19Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of the Almighty.
20Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
When we understand that obedience to the law does not save us and that rather, it is the fruit of our faith, we come closer to understanding the message that Paul delivered to the assembly in Rome.
A friend by the name of Chuck Henry recently met with some believers who, like the friends who visited our home, believe that the Torah was "done away." One of the the verses they used in promoting the belief that the Torah was "done away" was Ephesians 2:15. It was only after his meeting with them that Chuck became aware of the gross inconsistency between Romans 3:31, where Paul made it clear that he did not "make void the law" and Ephesians 2:15, where it appears (at first glance) that Paul wrote that Yeshua "abolished" the law. In researching the Greek word translated "make void," Chuck found that this same, exact word is also used in Ephsians 2:15, where it is translated "abolished." Chuck consequently wrote a concise commentary summarizing the quandary of believing that Paul didn't really mean to "establish" the law in Romans 3:31:
Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
Some may claim that they establish the law by recognizing that it existed, including things about it in their preaching, and so on, even though they also say that the law has been abolished.
How can it be both established and abolished? The Greek word used for abolished is the same word used for void:
2673. katargeo, kat-arg-eh'-o; from G2596 and G691; to be (render) entirely idle (useless), lit. or fig.:--abolish, cease, cumber, deliver, destroy, do away, become (make) of no (none, without) effect, fail, loose, bring (come) to nought, put away (down), vanish away, make void.
How can it be that it is not made (katargeo) void, and yet it is (katargeo) abolished? Obviously, it has to be either established or abolished (made void). It can't be both. So, to repeat the question in Rom 3:31, through our faith, do we make it void (abolish it)? No, we are forbidden to do that. We establish it!
I believe Chuck would agree that I did not take Paul out of context when I told our friends that it doesn't make sense to believe that he would "establish the law" in one portion of his letter to the Romans only to later inform those same Roman believers that the Messiah ended it. Something is wrong. Did I take Paul out of context or did our friends misinterpret Paul in Romans 10:4?
However, the point that Chuck makes above extends beyond the correlation between Romans 3:31 and Romans 10:4. In Chuck's commentary, he focuses on the Greek word translated "make void" in Romans 3:31. This Greek word, katargeo, is the same Greek word translated "abolished" in Ephesians 2:15:
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of the Almighty.
9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua unto good works, which the Almighty hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
11Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12That at that time ye were with Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without the Almighty in the world:
13But now in Messiah Yeshua ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Messiah.
14For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15Having abolished [katargeo] in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16And that He might reconcile both unto the Almighty in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
What Sundaykeeping proponents often avoid informing their constituents is the fact that the Greek word katargeo is found in both Romans 3:31, a verse where Paul emphatically states that he by no means "makes void (katargeo) the law," and in Ephesians 2:15, where Paul explains that the Messiah "abolished [katargeo] the law." How is it possible to simultaneously not make a law void and abolish that same law? As Chuck Henry puts it, "How can it be that it is not made (katargeo) void, and yet it is (katargeo) abolished? Obviously, it has to be either established or abolished (made void). It can't be both."
Curiously, the scholars who author many of what are considered the most reliable Bible commentaries miss the conundrum posed by believing, on the one hand, that Romans 3:31 does not abolish (katargeo) the law, but that Ephesians 2:15 does abolish (katargeo) the law.
For example, notice how David Brown, in Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible, treats these two verses. Here is his commentary on Romans 3:31:
31. Do we then make void the law through faith? — ‘Does this doctrine of justification by faith, then, dissolve the obligation of the law? If so, it cannot be of God. But away with such a thought, for it does just the reverse.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown go right along with Paul's concise and emphatic statement that the law is not made void, i.e., "abolished." However, they do an "about face" with their commentary on Ephesians 2:15. Whereas the above commentary on the book of Romans was authored by David Brown, the commentary on Ephesians, an excerpt from which is shown below, was composed by A.R. Fausset:
15. Rather, make "enmity" an apposition to "the middle wall of partition"; "Hath broken down the middle wall of partition (not merely as English Version, ‘between us,' but also between all men and God), to wit, the enmity (Rom. 8:7) by His flesh" (cf. vs. 16; Rom. 8:3). the law of commandments contained in—Greek, "the law of the commandments [consisting] in ordinances." This law was "the partition" or "fence," which embodied the expression of the "enmity" (the "wrath" of God against our sin, and our enmity to Him, vs. 3) (Rom. 4:15; 5:20; 7:10, 11; 8:7). Christ has in, or by, His crucified flesh, abolished it, so far as its condemning and enmity-creating power is concerned (Col. 2:14), substituting for it the law of love, which is the everlasting spirit of the law, and which flows from the realization in the soul of His love in His death for us.
At first glance, the above commentary seems to promote the abolishment of the law; however, A.R. Fausset was careful to stipulate that the only part of the law that is actually abolished is "its condemning and enmity-creating power." While we do not agree with Fausset's assessment, since mercy has always been exhibited by our Heavenly Father, it nevertheless reflects the view that it wasn't the actual law that was abolished, but rather the penalty of the law.
Other commentaries are more explicit in their decree that Ephesians 2:15 can only mean that the entire law was abolished. The following commentary is taken from The International Bible Commentary:
13-18. But all that had been changed by the death of Christ, which was for all men without distinction. Through this new way God is as accessible to the Gentile as to the Jew. The two parties had become one, not only by Christ, but in Christ. The wall of hostility alludes to the balustrade which surrounded the Temple proper in Jerusalem, barring the entrance of Gentiles (Ac. 21:28 f.). The blood of Christ also abolished (made null and void) the law of Moses, its moral intentions having been otherwise secured (Rom. 8:4).
You may wonder why this commentary uses the words "made null and void" so freely when the Apostle Paul made it clear in Romans 3:31 that he "by no means" made void the law through faith. Well, when we checked to see how the above commentary addressed Romans 3:31, we found that it offered no commentary on that verse! Was the commentator too puzzled by the apparent contradiction to dare expound on both Ephesians 2:15 and Romans 3:31?
All the commentaries that we reviewed support the view that Ephesians 2:15 "abolished" the law, yet none of them explain how this view harmonizes with Romans 3:31. Another example of this apparent non-awareness is exhibited by The Expositor's Bible Commentary:
15 The barrier between Jews and Gentiles was overthrown when Christ effectively disposed of the old law with its meticulously defined sanctions enshrined in its innumerable decrees. Paul explains elsewhere that in itself the law is right and good, but that unregenerate man is incapable of complying with its demands (Rom 3:19-31; 7:7-12; 8:2-4). A somewhat cumbersome phrase (literally, "the law of the commandments in decrees") covers the Mosaic ordinances regarded as a statutory legal code. "Regulations" (dogmata) was applied to imperial edicts. "Abolishing" (katargēsas, "having abolished") is a favorite Pauline verb not easy to translate. Literally it is to make ineffective or powerless. In Luke 13:7 it refers to ground exhausted by a barren tree. There are instances in the papyri where it means to bring to a standstill or to put out of action (MM, p. 331). Eventually it signifies to invalidate, nullify, quash. F. W. Grosheide thinks that Paul has in mind especially the ceremonial law (Die Brief Van Paulus Aan De Efeziers [Kampen, 1960], p. 45, but its application would appear to include the totality of the law considered as a moral burden.
It was in his crucified flesh that our Lord accomplished the annulment of the law (cf. v. 17), "so that he might bring into existence" (hina . . . ktisē) the new humanity of which he himself as the second Adam is the Head. The Christian is no hybrid but a new creation (v.10). Here was how Christ became "the divine atonemaker" as Tyndale put it (cf. v.14). Some commentators find a eucharistic dimension in the reference to Christ's flesh.
Earlier in our study, we pointed out how confused a Bible student would become if he only relied on a certain Bible commentary to guide his understanding of Scripture. We cited The Expositor's Bible Commentary as evidence supporting this fact, and we compared this commentary's exposé on Colossians 2:16 with the same commentary's review of Romans 3:31. Colossians 2:16, according to The Expositor's Bible Commentary, proves that believers are "freed" from the obligation of keeping the Sabbath. However, this same commentary, in expounding on Romans 3:31, states, "the demands of the law have not been set aside"! Which is it? Although we previously quoted the following excerpt, we are citing it again for your review:
Paul has twice mentioned law observance (vv.27, 28) as not entering at all into justification, which is by faith apart from works of the law. May we draw the conclusion, then, that the law is useless? By no means, the apostle would answer, for the operation of faith really upholds or establishes the law. The gospel establishes the law in that the latter is vindicated. The law has fulfilled a vital role by bringing an awareness of sin (v.20). A broken law made the redeeming work of Christ at the cross necessary (vv.24, 25). One who sees that the cross was a divine necessity will never feel that he can make himself approved by God by fulfilling the law's demands. If that were possible, Christ would have died in vain. Since the death of Christ was in terms of God's righteousness (v.26), this means that the demands of the law have not been set aside in God's plan of salvation.
Upon perusing the above commentary's treatment of Ephesians 2:15 and Romans 3:31, the Bible student should certainly wonder, "Which is it? Is the law ‘annulled' or is it ‘established'?"
Obviously, the law cannot be both "annulled" and "established." The question, then, is whether the commentators misinterpret Romans 3:31, which they agree means what it says, or Ephesians 2:15, which they generally agree means what it says without giving consideration to the fact that it contradicts Romans 3:31. Ironically, the same commentator who wrote above that the Messiah "disposed of the old law" offers some helpful insight into what Paul meant in Ephesians 2:15. Shown below is an excerpt from A. Skevington Wood's commentary on Ephesians 2:14:
Christ is both peace and peacemaker. He actually brought about the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile when he died on the cross. There he made both into one (cf. vv.15, 16). Paul thinks of two parts being united as one whole. Then he personalizes it and speaks of two men being recreated as one new man. As Chrysostom explained, it is not that Christ has brought one up to the level of the other, but that he has produced a greater: "as if one should melt down one statue of silver and another of lead, and the two together should come out gold" (in loc.). Christ has thus removed the hostility (echthran) that existed between these deeply divided groups. The battlement created by hatred has been broken down forever.
This Paul describes as a "barrier" (phragmos) and as a "dividing wall" (mesotoichon). The first word means simply a "fence" or "railing." The second is much rarer and is literally a "middle wall" (KJV). Josephus used each of these terms separately with reference to a balustrade in the Jerusalem temple separating the court of the Gentiles from the temple proper. On it was an inscription that read: "No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death."
When Jerusalem fell in a.d. 70, this partition was demolished along with the temple itself. But Paul saw it as already destroyed by Christ at the cross. Ironically enough, he himself had been wrongfully accused of taking an Asian Gentile, Trophimus, past this checkpoint (Acts 21:29).
It is significant that, according to the Apostle Paul, the man-made barriers that separated the Jews from the Gentiles, were removed. The law, of course, is not man-made. Could it be that the law of commandments contained in ordinances is, in fact, a reference to the man-made ordinances that served as barriers separating Judaism from Gentiles? We believe so, even though none of the commentaries we consulted mention such a possibility.
Nevertheless, Tim Hegg of Torah Resource offers what we feel is the proper understanding of Ephesians 2:15. The following excerpt is taken from his study/lecture entitled "The ‘Dividing Wall' in Ephesians 2:14: What is it? Who Made it? How was it Broken Down?":
What I am suggesting is simply that the dividing wall that was abolished by Messiah was none other than those Rabbinic laws which had enforced a separation between Jew and Gentile in opposition to the written Torah. In fact, the Tanakh gives very clear instructions against erecting barriers to separate Israel from the nations. The foreigner who desired to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was to be welcomed into the community and treated with the same respect as was given the native born (Ex. 22:21; 23:9; Lev. 19:33, 34; 25:35; Deut. 26:12). They were to be given full participation in matters of Torah and Torah-life (Sabbath, Ex. 23:12, cp. Is. 56:3ff; Gleanings, Lev. 19:10; Justice, Ex. 12:49; Lev. 24:22; Festivals, Deut. 16:11, 14; Worship and Prayer in the Temple, 1 Ki. 8:41-43, cp. 2 Chron. 6:32,33). And the prophets pronounce judgment upon any who would neglect their God-given responsibilities to the "stranger," on the same grounds as neglect of orphans and widows (Ps. 94:6; Is. 56:3ff; Jer. 22:3; Zech. 7:10).
The extant Rabbinic literature is not consistent on the matter of relations between Jew and non-Jew. Clearly, it was an issue of debate in the 1st Century. The practical outworking of the Rabbinic laws of purity, however, raised a strong wall of separation between the observant Jew and the non-Jew even if this was not the original intent. With the emphasis put upon purity by the Rabbis, separation from those things that rendered a person unclean was inevitable. And, when Gentiles were added to the "list" of those things that communicate uncleanness, the wall was built between Jew and Gentile.
According to oral Torah, mere contact with non-Jews could render a person unclean, as well as contact with the residence of a non-Jew or even with land outside the Land of Israel. Contact with any object used for idolatrous worship was added to the list of what might render a person unclean. Clearly, the oral Torah of the 1st Century functioned to separate Jew and Gentile in a dramatic way.
The above commentary is one of the best summaries we have ever read in association with what we feel is the proper interpretation of Ephesians 2:15, yet the author, Tim Hegg, has only addressed the "middle wall" of verse 14. Clearly, if we don't understand what the "middle wall" of verse 14 is, we're going to struggle with what the Apostle Paul meant by the "law of commandments contained in ordinances" as found in verse 15. Therefore, it is vital that we understand what the "middle wall" is before we can proceed, and Mr. Hegg sufficiently demonstrates that the "middle wall" is not the balustrade in the Jerusalem temple separating the court of the Gentiles from the temple proper; rather, it is the Rabbinic, man-made laws that had created a division between Jew and Gentile that was not sanctioned by our Heavenly Father.
Mr. Hegg, upon offering his view of what Paul meant by the "middle wall," proceeds to explain what Paul meant by "law of commandments contained in ordinances":
"The law of commandments in ordinances"
The Ephesian text before us helps define the dividing wall with the appositional phrase τον νομον των εντολων εν δογμασιν, "the law of commandments in ordinances." Did Paul use this phrase (rather than the simple ο νομος, ha nomos, "the law") to denote those Rabbinic laws which had, in fact, separated Jew and non-Jew? The first thing to note is that the term δογμα (dogma) is never used in the Lxx of any of the commandments, judgments, statutes, or laws of which, e.g., according to Genesis 26:5, the total written Torah consists. In the Lxx δογμα (dogma) normally designates the edicts of a king or court. Some have concluded that the use of the word in 3 Maccabees 1:3 refers to the "Law of Moses," but an investigation of the text in no way substantiates this claim. The line in question is:
But Dositheus, known as the son of Drimylus, a Jew by birth who later changed his religion and apostatized from the ancestral traditions . . . (υστερον δε μεταβαλων τα νομιμα και των πατριων δογματων απηλλοτριωμενος)
The phrase των πατριων δογματων (ton patrion dogmaton) is best understood not to refer to the Mosaic Torah but to the "traditions of the fathers," the halakah of the community. Had the written Torah been intended the phrase ο πατρος νομος (ha patros nomos), "the ancestral Law," found only a few verses later (1:23) would have been used. It hardly seems warranted, then, for the Greek lexicons to list "Mosaic Law" as a meaning for the term δογμα (dogma) on the basis of this single Lxx passage.
The noun δογμα (dogma) is found five times in the Apostolic Writings. In Luke 2:1 and Acts 17:7 it is used of Caesar's decrees, while in Acts 16:4 it refers to the Apostolic decree formulated at the Jerusalem council. The other use of the word, besides our Ephesians text, is in a sister-text, Colossians 2:14. Here, as in Ephesians, the decrees (τοις δογμασιν, tois dogmasin) are viewed as hostile (καθ ημων, kath' hemon, "against us") and are removed through Messiah's death on the cross. Particularly significant for our study is the fact that Paul goes on in the Colossian text, on the basis of the removal of this debt consisting of "decrees," to admonish his readers not to let others judge them in regard to "food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day" (v. 16). These were the very items which occasioned the attention of the Rabbis in their "building fences," and which had created the separation between Jew and non-Jew! Apparently, the abolishing of these decrees ought to have rendered the Colossian believers free from submitting to man-made fences such as "do not handle, do not taste, do not touch" (v. 20) when such fences effectively set aside the direct commands of God.
A study of the word δογμα (dogma) in the Lxx and Apostolic Writings confirms that the term was used of man-made laws, and not of the God-given Torah of Sinai. We may therefore conclude that Paul adds it to his description of νομος (nomos, "law") in order to identify the abolished law as the legal fence of the Rabbis, particularly the parts of the oral Torah that separated Jew and Gentile and thus were at odds with the written Torah that prophesied the unity of Jew and Gentile all within the promise of blessing given to Abraham.
When we consider the ramifications of believing that the Apostle Paul would tell the Roman believers that we by no means "make void" (katargeo) the law (in reference to the Torah of Yahweh), and that he would then turn around and tell his Ephesian brethren that this same law was "abolished" (katargeo), it becomes clear that something is amiss. Either the Apostle Paul was confused or else we misunderstand what he wrote. As Tim Hegg so eloquently explains in his commentary, the problem is not with Paul; the problem is with the misunderstandings that many have of what he wrote.
In our previous section, we established that the Apostle Paul established the law (Romans 3:31). We did this within reason and within the full context of the topic that he addressed to the Roman believers. Sadly, it isn't enough for many believers to take "establish the law" at face value. During the visit we had with Cynthia and Karen, Romans 3:31 did not come up until I brought it up, and when I did, the immediate reaction was, as mentioned earlier, that I took Paul's words "out of context."
Now that we have demonstrated that Paul meant exactly what he wrote in Romans 3:31, we need to address the argument raised by Cynthia and Karen – that, according to Romans 10:4, the Messiah was "the end of the law." Let's review this passage in full context to see if this is really what Paul wanted his Roman brethren to believe:
Romans 10:1Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to the Almighty for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2For I bear them record that they have a zeal of the Almighty, but not according to knowledge.
3For they being ignorant of the Almighty's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of the Almighty.
Does the above message sound familiar? Yes, here we go again – Paul once again expresses his frustration over the fact that his fellow Jews have a zeal for righteousness – but it's all a big show. It's all about their works, and zilch, i.e., nothing about how far short their righteousness actually measures in terms of gaining the "points" necessary for obtaining eternal life. The Jews of Paul's day literally thought they had the golden key to salvation!
Now that we are once again faced with the reality of Judaism's arrogant fall from grace and how they should have understood that righteous works are in fact an outpouring from our faith, we arrive at the verse which, according to many within Christianity, means that the law was "done away." Before we even read this verse, I believe we should re-read the previous three verses and ask ourselves, "Is Paul setting the stage for explaining to his Roman brethren that the law came to an end?" Also, does submitting oneself to the righteousness of the Almighty mean abandoning His law?
When we study the above passage (instead of skimming it as many do), we see that Paul's message has nothing to do with the Messiah bringing an end to the law. Even verse five underscores the reality of Paul's true message – that righteousness of the law involves not only doing righteous works, but living by righteous works. It's a lifestyle, not something we do for "Show and Tell."
The remainder of Paul's commentary mentions nothing about any laws being brought to an end. This can only be explained in view of the fact that Paul's concern did not lie with Jews who were obeying the law while simultaneously giving honor to the Almighty for His mercy in forgiving them for the areas where they fell short. Rather, Paul was concerned about Jews who were bragging about their righteous works while simultaneously denying outsiders entrance into "the world to come." The Jewish Talmud is replete with this very message, consisting of Jewish debates over who would or wouldn't be found in "the world to come." For example, according to Sanhedrin 10:1, those who deny the resurrection will have no share in "the World to Come.: In Sanhedrin 110b, there is a debate over whether the ten tribes of Israel will be in the "World to Come." These and many other decrees were the sad fruits of a people that had come to put their trust in their own form of righteousness instead of trusting in the Almighty's mercy – and recognizing that He sent His Son to show them true mercy.
This, then, should be where we pick up Paul's true intentions when he composed Romans 10:4: The Messiah is not the "end" of the law in terms of "termination." He is the "end" in terms of "goal" or "end purpose." When we review the Greek word translated "end" (telos, word #5056 in Strong's), we find that it can have a dual meaning. Yes, it can mean "end" as in "termination." However, it can also mean "purpose."
Earlier we quoted from Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible, noting that this commentary supports the belief that the law was abolished. In spite of itself, this same commentary recognizes that "end of the law" in Romans 10:4 refers, not to termination, but to purpose:
4. For Christ is the end—the object or aim—of the law for—justifying—righteousness to every one that believeth—i.e., contains within Himself all that the law demands for the justification of such as embrace Him, whether Jew or Gentile (Gal. 3:24).
In spite of the antinomian stand taken by Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible, they nevertheless understood that "end of the law" does not mean "termination of the law." The very fact that there is more than one way of interpreting "end of the law" underscores the dire importance of ensuring that we reach the right conclusion regarding this verse. We need to consider the ramifications of teaching that the law – by which is made the knowledge of sin – was brought to an end. On the other hand, if we come to realize that we cannot – no matter how diligently we try – keep the law perfectly, we should then come to understand how desperately we need the Almighty's grace. Through the redemption made possible by the shedding of His Son's blood, we learn that grace has been extended. Should our response to that grace be that of disregarding His law?
Are we to now disregard the law that caused Yahweh's Son to have to die for us because we hadn't kept it? The answer we've heard from antinomian preachers is yes. That is not what we see from the Apostle Paul's writings, nor does this teaching bear the slightest resemblance to anything that Yeshua the Messiah taught.
While the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" presented the most common arguments used against keeping the Sabbath, they are by no means the only ones. Perhaps in a subsequent study, we will address additional arguments.
Please understand that June and I are not out to judge or condemn anyone's decision to observe or not observe the weekly Sabbath. Our job is not to judge others, but rather to seek to do those things that please the Father, just as Yeshua did. Nevertheless, since we find ourselves confronted with articles such as the one referenced here, we simultaneously find ourselves compelled to respond.
It was at a Sabbath gathering where the friend I mentioned earlier, Chuck Henry, mentioned that he was preparing for his meeting with two members of a local church. The meeting was for the purpose of discussing whether or not believers should observe the weekly Sabbath. Chuck and I mulled over various passages that, while serving as sufficient proof texts for us, would most likely not satisfy those who believe the Sabbath was "done away." For example, a question was raised over the fact that the women who had come with Yeshua from Galilee, after visiting the tomb where Yeshua was buried, "rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment" (Luke 23:55-56). The fact that these women still understood the preeminence of the fourth commandment certainly upholds believing that it wasn't "taken away." However, in playing the "devil's advocate," I mentioned that those who are opposed to Sabbath observance would most likely reply, "But the women hadn't yet received the Holy Spirit! Their eyes had not yet been opened to understand that the Sabbath had been abolished!" Of course, we would not agree with such reasoning, yet that would be the anticipated response from non-Sabbatarians.
Nevertheless, I presented Chuck with one argument in favor of Sabbathkeeping for which I have yet to hear a response that comes close to being satisfactory. It involves the Sabbath message that the Apostle Paul delivered at Pisidian Antioch, as related in Acts chapter 13. In the discussion I had with Chuck, I had already covered the fact that the Apostle Paul is recorded as having observed the Sabbath in places such as Acts 16:13, Acts 17:2 and Acts 18:4, and all three verses offer what we feel is reasonable evidence validating the fact that Paul never taught against Sabbath observance. However, I pointed out that those who are opposed to Sabbath observance offer an alternative explanation for Paul's recorded Sabbath observances in those three accounts: That he was meeting with fellow Jews on the day that they observed because that was his primary opportunity to "witness" to them. While I disagree with this explanation, I nevertheless realize that it is sufficient enough for those who do not believe Paul practiced and taught Sabbath observance.
However, Acts chapter 13 is a different matter.
In Acts 13, we read of Paul and Barnabas visiting a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. After the reading from the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue invited them to share any words of exhortation that they might have for the people. Paul, seizing this opportunity, stood up and delivered a brief summary of the history of the nation of Israel leading up to the life, death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. Paul went on to testify that it is through Yeshua that we have forgiveness of sins, saying, "Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; by this Yeshua everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:38-39, NRSV)
If you read the entirety of Paul's sermon, you will not find a hint of a message encouraging anyone to discontinue Sabbath observance or a warning against "observing days." Nor do we read of Paul being questioned by his Jewish brethren as to why he teaches against Sabbath observance. Rather, Paul's words conveyed a message of salvation through the One Whom Yahweh raised again and Who "saw no corruption" (Acts 13:37).
As important as the above point is, an even more significant point lies in what happened after Paul was finished speaking. Notice the Gentiles' reaction:
42And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
What is so significant about the Gentiles' request? Two things: First, why did they ask Paul and Barnabas to return the following Sabbath? The next day, the first day of the week, was the day that nominal Christianity teaches as being the day on which the believers were accustomed to meeting. Why didn't they say, "Paul and Barnabas, we know you are accustomed to meeting on the first day of the week – could you please return tomorrow to give us more details about this Messiah you're talking about?"
Those who oppose Sabbath observance might respond that the Gentiles were as yet unlearned, so maybe they weren't aware of the "Law of the Christ" and how the new day on which to meet for worship was now the first day of the week. In their ignorance, it might be reasoned, they asked Paul and Barnabas to return seven days later instead of the very next day. This is what brings me to my second point.
When the Gentiles asked Paul and Barnabas to return the next Sabbath, why didn't Paul answer something to the effect of, "My brothers, why wait another seven days? Under the law of the Christ, the seventh day is no longer considered holy. Our custom is to meet on the first day of the week. We only attended this synagogue in order to persuade our fellow Jews about Who the Messiah is on the day when they are accustomed to meeting for worship. Please join us tomorrow for our Sunday services, and I'll be happy to give you more information about Yeshua."
Indeed, based on what we have read from those who are opposed to Sabbath observance, it only seems reasonable that the author of Acts, in an effort to clearly establish Sunday observance among the apostles and other believers, would have seized this opportunity to illustrate how Paul either practiced and taught Sunday observance or the "every day is holy" understanding. Rather, the only example we are left with is Sabbath observance – not only on the part of the Jews, but also from the understanding of the Gentiles.
Over the years, we have asked various opponents of Sabbath observance to explain the mystery of why Paul didn't invite his Gentile friends to return the very next day instead of waiting another seven days to hear such an important message. I'm sure some of our non-sabbatarian acquaintances have answered our question, but whatever answers we have received were so vague and unsatisfactory that I can't even remember what they were. (By the way, we read in the very next verse that on the following Sabbath almost the entire city gathered to hear the words of Paul and Barnabas!)
A few weeks after that Sabbath afternoon discussion with our friend Chuck, he was visited by the members of the local church. When Chuck brought up the above passage in Acts 13, it was summarily dismissed because, as pointed out by his guests, if we use the above as a valid reason for observing the Sabbath, then we must observe the Sabbath every day because, according to Acts 19:9, the Apostle Paul "disputed daily in the school of one Tyrannus." I believe this method of verse association is what is known as circuitous reasoning – taking one passage where the weekly Sabbath is clearly presented as the day on which believers – Jewish and Gentile alike – were accustomed to meeting, then attempting to somehow associate "disputing daily," as found in a separate passage, as inferring daily worship/holy convocation! It is a strange method of reasoning, yet this is one example of the attempts made to "explain away" the significance of Jews and Gentiles customarily meeting on the day of the weekly Sabbath.
This, then, is yet another difficult passage that needs to be seriously addressed by those who write articles discouraging others from observing the weekly Sabbath. As we have seen in this study, the arguments that non-Sabbatarians produce from the New Testament might appear to be supportive of their position if examined outside of context and apart from such obvious texts as those found in Acts chapters 13 and 25, Matthew chapters 5 and 19, Romans chapters 3 and 7, I John chapters 2 and 5 and Revelation chapters 14 and 22. In fact, since we know that Revelation offers a revelation of end-time events, its final chapter presents us with a fitting close to our study:
14Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
Just what are "His commandments," anyway? Are they the commandments referenced by Yeshua in Matthew 19:17 or "the law of the Christ" referenced in the article "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?"
As I mentioned in the Introduction, the organization to which we directed this study (in letter form) replied to our rebuttal within less than a month. However, we believe you will agree that they did not actually address our demonstration of how the author of "Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?" misrepresented Scripture. If I had to summarize their response, it would be a combination of the author's boasting of all the "good works" that his organization does and a reiteration of the same points presented in their article ... which June and I feel we have refuted here in this study. June and I came away with the impression that the anonymous person assigned to respond to our letter only skimmed it without really absorbing the efficacy of our arguments.
However, we would like for you to be the judge of that. If you would like to read their response to this study, please click here.
While we do not believe there is any hope (in this lifetime) of persuading the author of the letter that he misrepresents the texts of the New Testament, I decided to respond to his letter anyway. You can read my response by clicking here. After I had already sent my letter, it occurred to me that I should have raised yet another concern. This particular organization (whose name will be obvious when you read their response), actually goes beyond most non-sabbatarian groups that we have encountered in that they teach that the entire body of the Ten Commandments was "taken away" at Calvary. Such being the case, they must believe that at a certain, precise moment in time, it was not a sin to murder, steal, commit adultery, worship idols, dishonor parents, covet, use the Creator's name in vain, or work on the day of the weekly Sabbath. They don't make it clear as to when the nine commandments, exclusive of the weekly Sabbath, were actually "brought back."
In fact, if we understand this organization's interpretation of Scripture, they teach that the weekly Sabbath "must" be excluded because it isn't specifically mentioned in the New Testament as being a commandment that must be obeyed. If we were to accept this method of reasoning, might we ask where the commandment to not take our Creator's name in vain is repeated in the New Testament (after Yeshua's death and resurrection)?
Special thanks to Mr. Chuck Henry of Cisco, TX for his editorial assistance.
2 We refer to the Creator by the name He gave to Himself, Yahweh. For information explaining why we believe as we do, we invite you to read our study entitled "Sticks and Stones," which may be read by accessing the following URL: http://www.ponderscripture.org/PDF%20Files/Sticks_and_Stones.pdf.
3 For detailed information explaining why we prefer to refer to the Messiah as Yeshua, please review our study entitled "Name of the Messiah," which can be read by accessing the following URL:
4 Although we are presented with the "two greatest commandments"(Mk 12:28-34), neither of which is assigned a level higher than the other, Scripture does not attach levels of importance to commandments to the extent that some are considered as necessary to obey only by personal discretion.
5 Rubin, Jordan S., The Maker's Diet, Siloam, a Strang Company, Lake Mary, FL, 2004, p. 168.
6 Trudeau, Kevin, Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About, Alliance Publishing Group, Inc., Elk Grove Village, IL, 2004, p. 170.
7 The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book I, Section 32:1-3, "The Ebionites," Translated by Frank Williams, Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2009, p. 161.
8 One might argue that we are told that the law is against us in Deut. 31:26, where we read, "Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of Yahweh your Almighty, that it may be there for a witness against thee." Indeed, if we do not obey a written command from someone, that writing stands as a witness against us. That does not mean, however, that the command itself is against us. For example, I work in an environment where we are constantly exposed to sensitive information. Due to the possibility that an employee might use a cell phone to text message that information to someone, cell phones are banned within the room where we work. We have this rule in writing, and it stands as a witness against anyone who is caught using a cell phone in that room. However, that rule is certainly not "against us"! It is a precautionary measure to protect our clients, which in turn generates their trust. Without their trust, we would not have a job! Therefore, that rule is actually "for" us!
9 Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D., The New Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1981, p. 668.
10 Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D., The New Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1981, p. 518.
11 According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, "In religion the people were specially lax, worshipping angels. Of them, Michael was the chief, and the protecting saint of the city. It is said that once he appeared to the people, saving the city in time of a flood."
12 The author footnoted this remark as follows: "Colossians, ii, 16; compare Romans, xiv, 5; Galatians, iv, 10-11."
13 Hutton Webster, Ph.D., Rest Days, The MacMillan Company, New York, NY, 1916, p. 269.
14 Curtis Vaughan, "Colossians," Frank E. Gæbelein, Gen. Ed., The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), p. 204.
15 A. R. Fausset, "Colossians," Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown: Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Hartford, Conn.: S. S. Scranton & Company, 1871.
16 The individual who provided commentary on Colossians 2:16-17 for The Word in Life Study Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1993, p. 697) seems to agree with our perspective on the issue of condemnation as opposed to judgment: "The community of believers at Colosse was plagued by opinionated people who tried to impose their preferences on others. Paul challenged his readers to stand up for their own convictions, and not allow others to coerce them through intimidation or condemnation (vv. 16-17)."
17 Everett F. Harrison, "Romans," Frank E. Gæbelein, Gen. Ed., The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), p. 46. (Commentary on Romans 3:31).
18 Keith L. Brooks, Romans: The Gospel for All, The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 1987, pp. 72-78.
19 Ibid, p. 73.
20 Ibid, p. 22.
21 I do not recall the exact source of information supportive of Romans 14:5 being a reference to fast days instead of the weekly Sabbath, but years later I read this same conclusion from Seventh-Day Adventist author Samuele Bacchiocchi. Bacchiocchi states the following on page 120 of his book The Sabbath in the New Testament, 1985, Biblical Perspectives, Berrien Springs, Michigan: "The preference over days in Romans presumably had to do with fast-days rather than feast-days, since the context deals with abstinence from meat and wine (Rom 14:2, 6, 21). Support for this view is provided by the Didache (ch. 8) which enjoins Christians to fast on Wednesday and Friday rather than on Monday and Thursday like the Jews.
"Paul refuses to deliberate on such private matters such as fasting, because he recognizes that spiritual exercises can be performed in different ways by different people. The important thing for Paul is to ‘pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding' (Rom 14:19).
"If the conflict in the Roman Church had been over the observance of holy days, the problem would have been even more manifest than the one over diet. After all, eating habits are a private matter, but Sabbathkeeping is a public, religious exercise of the whole community. Any disagreement on the latter would have been not only noticeable but also inflammatory.
"The fact that Paul devotes 21 verses to the discussion of food and less than two verses (Rom 14:5-6) to that of days suggests that the latter was a very limited problem for the Roman Church, presumably because it had to do with private conviction on the merit or demerit of doing certain spiritual exercises such as fasting on some specific days."
23 Our study is entitled Is the Torah Relevant Today? It is not currently available online due to enhancements that we are incorporating. However, we will be glad to send the incomplete version to those who request it.
24 Ritter, Michael E. The Physical Environment: an Introduction to Physical Geography, Chapter 15: "Tectonics and Landforms," 2006. Date accessed: 03/28/2010. Taken from the University of Wisconsin web site at the following URL:
27 Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D., The New Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1981, p. 538.
29 David Brown, "Romans," Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1961 (originally published in 1871), p. 1146.
30 A.R. Fausset, "Ephesians," Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1961 (originally published in 1871), p. 1285.
31Cf., verses such as Psalms 103:8, where we read, "Yahweh is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy."
32 The International Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce, General Editor, Marshall Pickering/Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1986, p. 1434.
33 A. Skevington Wood, "Ephesians," Frank E. Gæbelein, Gen. Ed., The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), p. 40. (Commentary on Ephesians 2:15).
34 Everett F. Harrison, "Romans," Frank E. Gæbelein, Gen. Ed., The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), p. 46. (Commentary on Romans 3:31).
35 A. Skevington Wood, "Ephesians," Frank E. Gæbelein, Gen. Ed., The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), pp. 39-40. (Commentary on Ephesians 2:14).
36 Tim Hegg's footnote: "Much can be found in the Rabbinic literature to show an open heart to the non-Jew, see Montefiore & Loewe, Anthology, pp. 556-565. But there is clearly a tension. Some statements seem very open and warm to non-Jews, while others logically preclude any contact with them. The conclusion of most scholars is that the issue was not fully formulated among the Sages, though in practice, especially in Jerusalem and the Temple, avoiding contact with non-Jews became the most practical method of maintaining ritual purity."
37 Tim Hegg's footnote: "m.Pes. 8:8; m.Shek. 8:1; T.YomHaKipp. 4:20; Josephus, Ant. xviii,90; Acts 10:28."
38 Tim Hegg's footnote: "m.Oholot 18.7, 9; John 18:28."
39 Tim Hegg's footnote: "b.Shabbat 14b; y.Shabbat I, 3c; T.Parah 3:10."
40 Tim Hegg's footnote: "m.Shabbat 9:1; m.Abodah Zarah 3:6; y.Pesach. II.36c."
41 Tim Hegg, "The ‘Dividing Wall' in Ephesians 2:14: What is it? Who Made it? How was it Broken Down?" A lecture offered by Tim Hegg, Ingathering, 1996, email@example.com • torahresource.com. This study may be read in its entirety by accessing the following link: http://www.torahresource.com/EnglishArticles/Eph%202.14.pdf.
42 Tim Hegg's footnote: "Est. 4:8; 9:1; Dan. 6:12. The Hebrew words translated by δογμα (dogma) in the Lxx are דת, אסר, טעם, כּתב (dat, 'esur, ti'em, ketav)."
43 Tim Hegg's footnote: "Kittel ‘δογμα' (dogma) in TDNT, 2.231; H. H. Esser, ‘Command, Order' in Colin Brown, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology 3 vols. (Zondervan, 1975), 1.330; BAG, p. 200."
44 Tim Hegg's footnote: "English translation is from Bruce Metzger, ed., The Apocrypha of the Old Testament (Oxford, 1977), p. 295."
45 Tim Hegg's footnote: "Note other, parallel phrases in the Lxx: οι πατριοι νομοι, (2 Macc 6:1), νομος υψιστου, (Sir. 42:2; 44:20)."
46 Tim Hegg's footnote: "The same may be said of the word dogma (dogma) in Josephus (War, 2, 42; Ap., 1, 42) and Philo (Leg. All., 1, 54f; Spec. Leg., 1, 269; Gig. 52) . The contexts in which the word is used may easily be understood as speaking of the accepted, ‘lawful halakah.' In those places where the written Scriptures are clearly in the mind of the writer, the word νομος is inevitably employed, see Gutbrod, ‘νομος' (nomos) in TDNT 4.1052. Both Josephus and Philo use the articular ο νομος (ho nomos, ‘the law') to denote the ‘Pentateuch.'"
47 Tim Hegg's footnote: "The verbal form of the word is used in Col. 2:20, δογματιζομαι (dogmatizomai). It is only used here in the NT."
48 Tim Hegg, "The ‘Dividing Wall' in Ephesians 2:14: What is it? Who Made it? How was it Broken Down?" A lecture offered by Tim Hegg, Ingathering, 1996, firstname.lastname@example.org • torahresource.com. This study may be read in its entirety by accessing the following link: http://www.torahresource.com/EnglishArticles/Eph%202.14.pdf.
49 Robert Jamieson, d.d., A. R. Fausset, a.m., David Brown, d.d., Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1961, p. 1,168.
This is the name of our Creator, Yahweh, sometimes called the Tetragrammaton. It is given here in (A) the Phoenician script, (B) the Ivrit Kadum (Paleo-Hebrew) script, and (C) the Modern Hebrew script (a stylization of Aramaic).
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