Christ, the Law and the Sabbath.

Can you please explain in detail, the following Bible texts as they relate to the Sabbath. I have some friends from different denominations who are using these texts as evidence to say that it does not matter which day one worships.  I eagerly await your reply. Eph. 2:15; Heb. 4:9-11; 2 Cor. 3:3-18; Col. 2:14-17; Rom. 10:2-4; Gal. 3:1-25;Heb. 8:6-13

 HTM.  Jamaica.  Listen to the answer:  Listen pt1 (the law)   Listen pt2 (Sabbath)    

ANSWER: Thank you for your question and the list of Bible Texts.  As I have looked through the list I note that most of them are concerned with Paul?s interpretation of the law emphasising words like ?abolish? , ?end?, or ?cancelled?, as in Colossians 2:14-17 where it states that the written code is ?cancelled? and its regulations taken away, or ?nailed to the cross?.

So what was nailed to the cross?  We know that very clearly.  It was Jesus.  And why was he nailed there? Because, as Romans 5:6 puts it, ?at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.?   And why did he die?  Jump forward one chapter to Romans 6:23.  ?For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.?

He died on the cross to pay for our sins.  He equally died there to make available to us the free gift of eternal life.   Back in verse six this is made even more clear.  Romans 6:6-7 ?For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.?

There is maybe one more part of the equation we need to make clear so that we can then understand the Bible passages you have mentioned.  What is the sin for which Jesus had to die?

1 John 3:4 states that ?sin is lawlessness?.   Before there was sin there was no need for law because all creation loved God to the degree that they would not even consider doing something that would hurt God or hurt part of his creation.  That is why sin can also be defined another way.  In  2 Chron. 12:14 we are told that King Rehoboam ?did evil becaus e he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord?.

From Genesis Chapter 3 on, then at Sinai and in the laws of Moses, God had to implement laws and guidelines simply because people were falling away from him.  They were not recognising his love and his saving power.  They did not have their hearts set on him.  

So conversely, as people come nearer and nearer to God, and start to more fully reflect his character, they need less laws.  That is why Jesus can summarise the ten commandments with only two.  ?Love G od, and love your fellow man? [Luke 10:27]. Paul shortens it even more: Galatians 5:14 ?The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbour as yourself."?    That is so logical because John tells us very clearly that ?God is love? [1 John 4:8] ? something that he really demonstrated: 1 John 3:16 ?This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.?

So what was then nailed to the cross?  A lovi ng Jesus, who said, you have failed to keep my loving laws, and yet I love you so much that I will pay the penalty for you.  All the consequences of the times you failed die right here with me.

As Jesus himself said, Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.?

Paul?s arguments then, in Ephesians 2:15, 2 Corinthians 3, Colossians 2, Romans 10:2-4, and Galatians 3, is not that the law is done away with and that we now live without it, but rather that Christ did away with the penalty on breaking it.  Paul explains that the law cannot save us, and never could.  In Romans 7 he shared his own battle of how he tried to keep the law and couldn?t, and that freedom only came when he gave up trying and started relying on Jesus.  That is why, in the beginning of Romans 8 he can state that there is ?no condemnation for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.?  What the law could not do, Jesus did.

That then leads to the next question.  Was the law itself evil and should it be done away with?  Romans 7:7 is among a number of texts that emphatically says NO!  The ten commandments in their entirety are good ? but keeping them cannot save us.  However, once we are saved and spend our lives focused on Jesus we will find ourselves naturally wanting to keep them anyway ? not as a legal requirement, but because, as a reflection of God?s character we will honour him and love and respect our fellowman.

Hebrews 4 then takes this argument forwards, particularly in regards to the Sabbath.  In understanding this passage remember that Paul was writing to Jewish Christians, who kept the Sabbath and had a great respect for the symbols and ceremonies of the Old Testament.  Hebrews goes through those symbols and points out that the best of everything is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is greater than the angels (1:4ff), greater than Moses (chapter 3), greater than the High Priest (4:14-5:10) etc.

In chapter 4 he demonstrates how resting in Christ is equally greater than any rest offered in the Old Testament system, either the rest of freedom from slavery when the Israelites left Egypt, or the rest they received when their wandering in the wilderness came to an end after forty years, a punishment for not trusting in God.  Hebrews 4:2-3 follows the pattern of Jesus in Matthew 11:28 using the word ?REST? to describe the Good News of Salvation as seen in Jesus Christ. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

We should then also note that the word ?Sabbath? means rest.  Not just rest from the normal weekday toil, but resting in Christ, resting in his creation, and, as this chapter in Hebrews points out, resting in the expectation of a final eternal rest when Christ comes again and finally and completely fulfils all the promises of Scripture. 

That is why in 4:9 it can say:  ?< /font>There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.?  The Good News Bible paraphrases this very nicely when it says, ?there still remains for God?s people a rest like God?s resting on the Seventh-day.?

I like the meaning that is drawn out of that.  If we reflect back to creation week we would note that God did not need to rest on the seventh day of creation.  He was not tired.  God never tires.  Neither were Adam and Eve.  They had only been created the day before.  God rested for fellowship.  He rested to set up a special time when he and his creation could specifically focus on each other.

And so today, when we enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, we enter into God?s saving rest of which the Sabbath is a sign.

I hope that this has been of help to you in your understanding of these Biblical Passages, and in recognising the blessing of Sabbath keeping, not as a legalistic means to the end of salvation, but as a privilege, resting in Christ and rejoicing in fellowship with God on his special day

If you would like further reading I woul d highly recommend the final chapter of Dr Jack Sequeira?s book, Beyond Belief [PPPA, Boise, Idaho, 1993 ISBN 0-8163-1143-9]   There is also excellent information at the following website:    Related questions:  Keeping two Sabbaths, Sabbath on Saturday, Sunday and the ResurrectionExplaining Ephesians 2:15Saturday as a holiday.  

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