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Sabbath-Keeping Freedom

Exodus 20:8-11

Some people claim that Christians must keep the Sabbath and fulfill the Law of Moses (Exodus 20:8-11).  Some people even claim that Sabbath Keeping is under assault by church members today. When anyone makes such claims, they tend to ignore the New Testament teaching regarding the Sabbath. Only the Scriptures (66 Books of the Old and New Testaments) provide authoritative answers to spiritual questions. Therefore, the best answers to Sabbath Keeping come from the Scriptures. Several passages from the Scriptures show that the church no longer has any obligation to keep the Law of Moses. Everyone who tries to reimpose the Law of Moses upon the Church follows in the footsteps of the Pharisees in the New Testament, who claimed you must keep the Law of Moses to go to heaven (Acts 15:5). Therefore, we may review several passages in the New Testament that answer the question about whether Christians today should keep the Law of Moses, including the Sabbath Keeping as described in Exodus 20:8-11. I will use the term “Sabbath Keeping” to refer to the command of Exodus 20:8-11. Please recall that the Law of Moses is holy, righteous and good (Romans 7:12), but the Law of Moses was: (1) fulfilled in the appearance of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:23-29; Romans 10:4); (2) part of the Old Covenant with Israel which is now obsolete, having been replaced by the New Covenant brought about by the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 8:13; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25); and (3) never able to save anyone (Galatians 3:21). Several passages in the New Testament provide clear answers to whether Christians today must keep the Sabbath.

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Section One

The Jerusalem Council and The Law of Moses

As Gentiles flooded into the Church by the grace of God, disputes arose over whether the Gentiles should keep the Law of Moses. The sect of the Pharisees insisted that the Gentiles must keep the Law of Moses, but Paul and Barnabas objected to such claims (Acts 15:1-2). The apostles, elders, and congregation met in Jerusalem to settle the matter. They concluded that because “Moses has in every city those who preach him,” the Gentiles in the Church would do well to avoid needless conflicts with the Jews and so abstain from: (1) things contaminated by idols; and (2) immorality; and (3) things strangled; and (4) blood. Please take notice that the Jerusalem Council declined to impose the Law of Moses upon anyone in the Church, but provided special guidance to avoid upsetting the Jews in the synagogues where Moses was read each Sabbath. Therefore, the Jerusalem Council stood against imposing the Law of Moses upon anyone, because they knew that salvation was by faith in Christ Jesus alone and the works of the Law of Moses never saved anyone. The Jerusalem Council followed the New Testament principle that our freedom from the Law of Moses provided by the New Covenant in Christ should not be used to impose a stumbling block upon anyone, especially the Jews in the synagogues. Remember the words of Peter at the Jerusalem Council referring to the Law of Moses: “Now, therefore, why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are” (Acts 15:10-11). Therefore, anyone who urges Christians today to follow Sabbath Keeping seeks to reimpose the yoke of the Law of Moses which Peter spoke against.

Section Two

Saturday Worship?

Some people today falsely claim that Christians must worship on the Sabbath (Saturday). For example, the cult of Seventh Day Adventists teaches ignorantly and wrongly that God requires Christians to worship on the Sabbath. The cult is ignorant because Exodus 20:8-11 concerns not working on the Sabbath and says nothing about worship. They are also wrong because the New Testament Church met every day, breaking bread from house to house and praising God (Acts 2:46-47). In fact, Paul met with believers to break bread on the first day of the week (Sunday) (Acts 20:7).  Believers gather on Sunday to remember Jesus and His resurrection from the dead (John 20:1-18).  Every day is a day of Sabbath Rest for Christians (Hebrews 4:9-11). Therefore, anyone who demands Sabbath worship ignores the Bible and wrongly interprets the Scriptures regarding worship.

Section Three

Shadow of Christ

God commanded that no one should act as your judge concerning a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day (1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17;  Hosea 2:11). Those things are a shadow of things to come; the substance belongs to Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). God meant that the festivals, new moons, and Sabbath days were only a shadow of Christ, and upon His appearing, they have passed away (Hebrews 8:13). Therefore, because no one should act as your judge about keeping a festival, or new moon or a Sabbath day, anyone who seeks to judge you today according to the Law of Moses breaks the Scriptures.

Section Four

Sign of the Covenant

God gave the Sabbath as a sign of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). While some people may argue that the text of Exodus 31:16 supports New Covenant observance of the Sabbath, the better translation of the Hebrew text limits the time period to the present Mosaic Covenant and the generations thereof. 1The Hebrew text provides: “וְשָׁמְר֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֑ת לַעֲשֹׂ֧ות אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֛ת לְדֹרֹתָ֖ם בְּרִ֥ית עֹולָֽם” (Exodus 31:16). The use of the term לְעֹלָ֑ם should not always be translated as eternal, but for a specific length of time, depending upon the context. The phrase מֵעֹולָ֖ם וְעַד־עֹולָֽם (1 Chronicles 29:10) provides for longer time than simply לְעֹלָ֑ם, which often refers to a period of time under a specific covenant. Anyone who wants to keep the Sabbath may certainly do so, but the New Covenant imposes no such requirement. Therefore, the obligation to keep the Sabbath throughout the generations applied to the generations under the Mosaic Covenant, not the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus when He died and rose again.

Section Five

Freedom in Christ from Judgment

Paul declared that all things are lawful for him, but not all things are profitable (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23). Paul then continued that his freedom to do all things does not mean he could use his freedom to cause others to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). Because God freed us from the yoke of the Law of Moses (Acts 15:10), no one should seek to destroy that freedom by imposing the Mosaic Law upon anyone. Likewise, while one person may regard one day above another day, such as some keep the Sabbath and some do not, each person must be fully convinced in his own mind (Romans 14:5). God condemned one saint judging another saint regarding days and eating (Romans 14:6-9). Saints should not put obstacles before other saints regarding their personal preferences which do not violate Scripture. As above, today saints so inclined may keep the Sabbath, but God removed the obligation to keep the Sabbath by inaugurating the New Covenant, which replaced the Law of Moses, given as a sign of the Old Covenant. Saints today violate the Scriptures by judging the freedom of other saints to regard one day above another, to keep or not keep a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. Therefore, when people pervert the Scriptures to impose their personal preference to keep the Sabbath, they violate the Scriptures by judging other saints who enjoy their freedom in Christ under the New Covenant to make their own choices to observe a Sabbath or not.

Section Six

Saturday Worship

Some people (such as the cult of Seventh Day Adventists) today claim that the Sabbath must be the day of worship. They overlook the plain language of Exodus 20:8-11, which provided for a day of rest from work. It says nothing about worship on the Sabbath. By making such a claim that saints must worship on Saturday, they not only lack Scriptural support for mandatory worship on Saturday, but they also violate the Scriptures above. The Scriptures above oppose any demand for saints to observe the Sabbath today. Paul specifically rebuked the Galatians for turning back to the “weak and worthless elemental things” such as observing days and months and seasons and years (Galatians 4:9-10). Therefore, anyone attempting to impose their desire to worship on Saturday and observe the Sabbath on Saturday violates the Scriptures by turning back to weak and worthless things such as mandatory observance of days and months and seasons and years.

Section Seven

Conclusion

Christ set us free for the sake of freedom (Galatians 5:1). We stand firm in Christ, never again subjecting ourselves to a yoke of slavery under the Law of Moses which no one was able to bear (Acts 15:10). For the saints today, we enjoy each day as a Sabbath, because we have entered the rest of God and rested from our works, as God did from His (Hebrews 4:9).

HALLELUJAH !

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