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April 30, 2011

SHOULD CHRISTIANS OBSERVE THE SABBATH?


Christians who worship on Sunday are sometimes asked, "Why don't you observe the Sabbath as commanded in the Ten Commandments?" The answer is simple.  The Sabbath  began before the commandments and outlived them. Let me explain.

It was only when God finished the work of creating the heavens and earth that He rested.  The Sabbath, the rest of God, implies perfect satisfaction in what He had accomplished ("it was very good").  The seventh day was fixed by God to be a time of rest and joy for Himself and all creation. Since no more work had to be done, God rested.  It was not because He was weary, but because He was finished.

God blessed the Sabbath and sanctified it, setting it apart from the days of His labors.  What's more, God made man on the sixth day, so that the first day that dawned upon Adam was the Sabbath of God. Man immediately entered into the enjoyment of the Creator's rest. When God finishes His work, we benefit by entering into rest with Him.

But that rest was quickly destroyed by man's sin. The Sabbath was destroyed. The tempter came, man rebelled against God and the rest was broken.   In the ages that follow man appears to have forgotten that the Sabbath was "made for man" not man for the Sabbath. It took Jesus to straighten out man's thinking (Mark 2:27-28).  He is Lord of the Sabbath, and still some thinking appears to be confused about what the Sabbath means.

The Law entered when man sinned.  The Law was a moral code, a schoolteacher to bring men and women back to God.  The Law was designed to point men to Christ, God the Son.  Therefore, the Ten Commandments specifically ordained, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8). As long as man lived apart from God, He lived under the Law. But if we remember the law of the Sabbath without remembering the purpose of the Sabbath, we only remember the code and not the Christ.

Of all the Ten Commandments, the only one not repeated in the New Testament, the only one not germane to living under grace instead of law, was the Fourth Commandment—remember the Sabbath day, keep it holy, do no work, rest the seventh day. There's good reason for this omission. When God finished the work of creation He rested. When God finished the work of redemption again He rested (John 19:30). Jesus finished the work (John 17:4). He put away sin;  the work of redemption was complete, and it was very good. The rest that existed from Creation to the Fall was now restored.  Jesus said, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).

As Adam entered into God's rest after creation, we enter into His rest after redemption. Between these was the Law and labor. Keeping the Law never brought salvation, but it never brought rest either. Jesus is our Sabbath.  The Christian worships the Lord on the first day of the week, the day Jesus rose from the dead, because that resurrection day was the day mankind again could rest in the joy of the Lord. The Sabbath pre-existed the Law and He lives again today in hearts unfettered by the Law.

SOURCE:  The preceding  Bible-based  article was written by Dr. Woodrow Kroll, CEO and radio broadcast speaker of Back to the Bible International Ministries in Lincoln, Nebraska USA. Also, don't miss reading or listening to Dr. John MacArthur's sermon entitled, "Understanding the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3)" that was recorded live at Grace Community Church on September 20, 2009 (click here).


FURTHER COMMENTARY 


Are all of God's declaratives in the Ten Commandments of a moral stature? Seventh-day Adventist apologists continue to arbitrarily make such an unbiblical assumption.  Is there not a mixture of ceremonial and moral elements within the Decalogue itself?  After all, the Decalogue has been historically considered to be a basic summary of the 613 laws of the Torah. If the Decalogue had no ritual aspect in any manner, then it could not have been a true summary.

What about the extra sacrificing by the priest (two male lambs without blemish) on every Sabbath, the meticulous showbread display in the Holy Place, and the male circumcision (the eighth day circumcision ritual always trumped the weekly Sabbath) requirements under the Fourth Commandment? Importantly, if the Mosaic Sabbath was actually a moral directive, then it would not have been consistently surpassed or infringed upon by ceremonial laws (i.e., circumcision, extra sacrificing, etc.).  The other nine commandments in the Decalogue, being obviously of a moral stature,  were never trumped by a ceremonial law for any reason. 

Truly, it is impossible to properly observe the festal, weekly Sabbath without the Levitical system being fully in place (the same holds true for tithing as well). Since devout Sabbatarians reluctantly admit that there is a dominant ceremonial element in properly observing the Fourth Commandment, the fact that the Jews were commanded in the Decalogue to keep the seventh day as a Sabbath cannot prove it to be a moral law. The weekly, festal Sabbath is listed as one of the seven convocations given to the "people of Israel" in Leviticus 23:1-3 (ESV). Why did God often criticize the Gentiles through the prophets for moral violations, but never criticized any Gentiles for not keeping the weekly Sabbath? Moreover, if the Sabbath is a moral law, why did Jesus break the Sabbath (John 5:17-18) without incurring sin? Why is Sabbath-breaking never listed as a sin in the New Testament? Interestingly, Jesus never compared the weekly, Mosaic Sabbath to any moral laws—only to ceremonial laws.

A moral law, unlike a ceremonial or ritual law,  is in effect 24/7 (every nanosecond of time) and not merely once a year, season, month, or week. Also, moral laws are never trumped by any ceremonial laws (i.e., ritual circumcision on the eighth day, priestly sacrifices, weekly showbread placement, etc.), and they never allow any exceptions due to works of charity, mercy, or necessity for proper compliance. Surely, there is never a valid excuse to worship another god, to murder someone, to steal something, to commit adultery, et cetera. The Ten Commandments, as written by the hand of God, were only ten short and brisk commands (literally the "Ten Words" in Hebrew).

Inadvertently, many well-meaning people have often confused Moses' exposition of these commands with the commands themselves.  For example,  the Tenth Commandment according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:9 is, "You shall not covet." This is very short and simple. It was Moses who later gave several examples (Ex. 20:17) of the type of things that we should not covet (i.e., our neighbor's wife, house, servants,  animals, nor anything else belonging to him). Moreover, due to the dominant male culture among the Hebrew people, the prohibition against coveting a neighbor's husband is noticeably absent, although one can reasonably argue that it is definitely implied.

Furthermore,  when Moses explained to the Israelites why they should keep the Sabbath, he gave a different reason in Deuteronomy 5 than what he quoted God declaring in Exodus 20. While Moses in Exodus 20:11 referred to the creation week, in Deuteronomy 5:15 he omits any reference to the creation week and instead refers to the Exodus out of Egypt as the reason for Sabbath observance.  If God Himself had literally written all the words (including the commentary) in Exodus 20:11 about the creation week on tables of stone with His own hand, Moses would not have edited or substituted them with a reference to their Egyptian slavery in Deuteronomy 5:15. Moreover, unlike the Jewish ritual laws, moral (ethical) laws never changed throughout the centuries, but the Sabbath and tithing laws differed in various Old Testament time frames. Lastly, but certainly not least in importance, it is geographically impossible for all men to keep the Sabbath.  What would those in cold climates do without heat (Ex. 35:1-3)?  Is it not true that a moral law can be kept anywhere?

Obviously, the Sabbath cannot be kept everywhere throughout the world due to lengthy periods of darkness and light in the polar regions. How can astronauts living on a space station, visiting an asteroid, or landing on the moon observe the Sabbath? What about astronauts orbiting the earth in various spacecraft? How can they faithfully observe the Jewish Sabbath when witnessing multiple sunrises and sunsets in a short period of time? How can the redeemed of all ages observe the festal, weekly Sabbath in the Holy City that "has no need of the sun or moon" (Rev. 21:23 ESV)? The Apostle John declared that "there will be no night there" (v. 25) "and night will be no more" (Rev. 22:5 ESV). Consequently, as the Bible affirms, there cannot be a weekly Sabbath without a daily sunset. There will certainly be no need for sunset calendars in heaven. Moreover, the inhabitants of heaven will no longer yearn for the ritual laws of Moses to intensely gaze upon the fading shadows of the sun twice every week, but they will instead cast their eyes upon God the Son because their "lamp is the Lamb" Rev. 21:22 ESV).

Eternal bliss is beyond the constraints of time and space that we are familiar with in this sin-cursed world. Unlike the reward of the redeemed in heaven, God has reserved agonizing, stark darkness for those cast into the "gloomy dungeons" of hell (2 Peter 2:4 NIV). Close your eyes for a few seconds and ask yourself, "Do I want to have a light-free existence throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity?" On the other hand, there is nothing even remotely dark, dim, fading, or shadowy in heaven. No form of darkness or dreariness would be appropriate for the holy, splendid atmosphere of heaven. The sober, biblical truth is that we will all spend eternity somewhere—in either heaven or hell (very limited choices). Additionally, the fact remains that the International Date Line is purely a man-made imaginary line weaving through the Pacific Ocean. In Samoa, for example, map makers (cartographers) have recently re-drawn the curvy International Date Line for economic reasons, and the weekly Sabbath (Saturday) has now become Sunday without any Popes or Emperors involved. 

These are issues that Sabbatarians will have to face increasingly in the future. In this digital age, willful ignorance and misinformation will no longer suffice for the facts. Moreover, it is economically and technologically impossible to shut down modern industrial society and major utility companies every Saturday.  If, for example, the steel mills turned off their furnaces one day out of the week, it would be impossible to produce steel, for it takes a week for them to heat up sufficiently to begin production. The Ten Commandments, devoid of commentary and illustration,  are as follows:

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

You shall not have any other gods before Me.
You shall not make for yourself any idol.
You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain.
Observe the Sabbath day.
Honor your father and mother.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness.
You shall not covet.

Although the Christian calendar has no actual "holy" days, the Lord's day (Resurrection Day) is a very "special" day for Christ-followers around the world. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest event in redemptive history and the epicenter of the Christian faith. Truly, not just any day could be this special.   After all, God Himself precisely planned (foreordained) the exact day of the week that Jesus would raise from the dead. Moreover, our sovereign God foreordained (predestined) the exact day that the Christian Church would be born (Pentecost Sunday). Our awesome God did not allow the slightest margin of error for these historic and redemptive events. However, Sunday is not a holy day in the sense of being actual holy time like the weekly, festal Sabbath was. When Jesus died, the Sabbath died. Those who still insist upon observing any shadow pointing to the cross are actually denying the glory, majesty, and reality of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is high time for well-meaning people to stop Judaizing Christianity and to start Christianizing the world instead.

"The weekly Sabbath, i.e., Saturday, is not the real Sabbath.  The true Sabbath is a rest; the Jewish Sabbath is a shadow, a picture of that rest. All the Old Testament shadows pointed to Christ...These Old Testament shadows were looking forward to the coming of the One who would fulfill these and thus end them. When the work of Jesus Christ was finished the shadows were no longer needed." (Excerpt taken from The Seventh Day, by Ray C. Stedman, 12-10-67, THE BEGINNINGS:  Commentary on Genesis)

"O Lord God, grant us thy peace--for thou hast given us all things. Grant us the peace of quietness, the peace of the Sabbath, the peace without an evening. All this most beautiful array of things, all so very good, will pass away when all their courses are finished--for in them there is both morning and evening."

"But the seventh day is without an evening, and it has no setting, for thou hast sanctified it with an everlasting duration. After all thy works of creation, which were very good, thou didst rest on the seventh day, although thou hadst created them all in unbroken rest—and this so that the voice of thy Book might speak to us with the prior assurance that after our works—and they also are very good because thou hast given them to us—we may find our rest in thee in the Sabbath of life eternal." (Excerpts from St. Augustine; Bishop of Hippo Regius, 354-430 AD; My Confessions, page 328)

Someone aptly stated that "Adventists aren't even observing a shadow. They're honoring a literal day, not a shadow of reality but as the reality itself. They have made a creation into a holy icon." Interestingly, around the year A. D. 100, the Didache (the first known church manual) instructed Christians to "gather together on the Lord's day." In A. D. 155, Justin Martyr wrote a letter to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius mentioning that the early Church celebrated communion together on Sundays in honor of our Lord's resurrection.

The following pungent statement from the pen of Ellen White, the revered SDA co-founder and prophetess, reveals yet another scare tactic to convince her readers not to forsake observing the Mosaic Sabbath: "Then I was shown a company who were howling in agony. On their garments was written in large characters, 'Thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting.' I asked who this company were. The angel said, 'these are they who have once kept the Sabbath and have given it up.'" (Medical Ministry, page 123) "When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him" (Deut. 18:22 ESV). Furthermore, God's Word declares that "...the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die" (v. 20). Indeed, it is a very serious offense to falsely claim to be a specially-chosen mouthpiece for our awesome, holy God.

All in all, both the Bible and Church history repeatedly attest to the fact that Christians assembled on the Lord's day beginning shortly after the resurrection of Jesus. The early Christians, by no longer observing ritual laws, wanted to show forth the true meaning of the Sabbath, which achieved its full purpose in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, in whom we find our perfect, ultimate rest. "Come to me, all you who are weary and overburdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30 Phillips NT). The good news remains that there is an extraordinary Sabbath rest or "sabbatismos" (the only occurrence of this Koine Greek word in the NT) "for the people of God" (Heb. 4:9 ESV).

In addition to the well-known New Testament passages found in Colossians 2:16-17, Matthew 11:28-30, Galatians 4:9-11, Hebrews 4:9-10, Revelation 1:10, and Romans 14:5-6, here are three additional noteworthy Early Church quotes on the weekly Sabbath as well:

"If then, those who had lived in antiquated practices came to newness of hope, no longer keeping the Sabbath but living in accordance with the Lord's day, on which our life also arose through Him and His death..." (Early 100s AD)

"But Sunday is the day which we all hold our common assembly, because Jesus Christ, our Saviour, on the same day rose from the dead."  (Justin Martyr, 140 AD)

"Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians.  But if any shall be found to be Judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ."  (Canon 29, Synod of Laodicea, 384 AD)

Centuries later, the renowned Protestant Reformer, John Calvin wrote: "However, the ancients did not substitute the Lord's Day (as we call it) for the Sabbath without careful discrimination.  The purpose and fulfillment of that true rest, represented by the ancient Sabbath, lies in the Lord's resurrection. Hence, by the very day that brought the shadows to an end, Christians are warned not to cling to the shadow rite." (Institutes of the Christian Religion; Book 2, Chapter 8)

Since millions of people live in Northern habitats, places where the "Sabbath" can be 3 months long during the summer and no "Sabbath" for 3 months in the winter, what should Sabbath-keepers do? Ellen White, the SDA prophetess, gave the following answer to this perplexing dilemma: "God made His Sabbath for a round world; and when the seventh day comes to us in that round world, controlled by the sun that rules the day, it is the time, in all countries and lands, to observe the Sabbath. In the countries where there is no sunset for months, and again no sunrise for months, the period of time will be calculated by records kept. But God has a world large enough, and proper and right for the human beings He has created to inhabit it, without finding homes in those lands so objectionable in very, many, many ways." (Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases; Vol. 12 [Nos. 921-999], page 159) 

By the way, according to the Apostle John, heaven will have no sunsets forever (an "objectionable" environment for Adventist Sabbatarians). Should all the Russians, Norwegians, Canadians, Greenlanders, Swedes, and Alaskans living in these Northern regions (within or near the Arctic Circle) mass migrate to more moderate climates in order to live morally-acceptable lives? Adventism's ironclad solution? Just don't live there!  Moreover, as would be expected, official Adventism does not waste its tithe money in a vain attempt to somehow publish weekly, sunset calendars for those regions of the world.  However, unlike the ritual shadows pointing to the incarnate Christ (Col. 2:16-17), is it not true that God's moral laws can be observed even on the moon or on a space station?


Resting in Jesus, the true Sabbath Rest,


Dennis Fischer
Web Chaplain




A UNIQUE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

When my wife and I were driving to church on the first Sunday morning after officially leaving Seventh-day Adventism in 2000, we were most surprised to discover a policeman directing the congested traffic at an intersection about a half mile from the church. Moreover, a policeman directed traffic out of the church parking lot after the worship service as well. We had no idea that so many people in our community were active Christ-followers. We were further delighted to see church-goers entering Sunday School rooms and the worship center with Bibles in their hands. Strangely, we were taught that all non-Adventist churches were merely "synagogues of Satan."

While still devout Adventists, we seldom had any reason to be driving around early on Sunday mornings. We are blessed to have scores of churches  in our city that serve  the spiritual needs of many believers among its 250,000 residents. Truly, as Adventists, we were living in a self-imposed isolated bubble—unaware of the heavy, bumper-to-bumper traffic in some major intersections every Sunday morning. Indeed, every Sunday morning, when we gather our families together and get into our cars and head off to church, we are announcing anew to our friends and neighbors that we love and worship our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As indicated earlier, we need to stop "Judaizing" Christianity and start "Christianizing" the world.




courtesy of

DENNIS FISCHER MINISTRIES
Worldwide Chaplaincy Services
E-mail:  dfministries@gmail.com
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