Christians and the law
Is the Torah still binding on us today?
To fully understand this question, we need to consider two scriptural concepts. They are known as a Shadow and a Type. There is a major difference between a shadow and a type and we will discuss each one of these in turn:
The sacrificial laws are types. Once Yahshua became the (sacrifice) law - there was no longer a need for the type. However we now keep the Passover with new emblems or as Yahshua so rightly put it in Mark 14: 24: "And He said to them, "This is My blood of the renewed covenant, which is shed for many." Yahshua has fulfilled the Sacrificial Law and introduced a new way of keeping Elohim's Feasts, for example Passover. There is no longer a requirement to sacrifice animals, but we keep the Passover with unleavened bread, representing Yahshua's body - bruised for our iniquities; and the wine representing Yahshua's blood, which was shed for the forgiveness of the sins of the world - including ours.
A shadow points to the reality, but never does away with it. The Set-apart days (YHVH Feasts) are shadows of things to come (See Colossians 2: 17). Those Feasts are introduced by YHWH in Leviticus 23 are a shadow of things to come. It relates to us, YHWH's plan of salvation for all humankind. We keep those Feast days yearly to rehearse YHWH's plan, so that we as first fruits will be able to teach YHWH's plan of salvation and other teachings to our siblings during the millennium rule of the Messiah from Jerusalem.
Yahshua did not come to abolish the law and said so in Matt 5: 17: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete.” 18 "For truly, I say to you, till heaven and the earth pass away, one jot or one title shall by no means pass from the Torah till all be done."
Yahshua is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, according to Heb.13: 8. He did not change His mind after His impalement. He laid down his life for His people and became a sacrifice for our past lawlessness. That was the only part of the law that He effectively fulfilled, doing away with the requirement to sacrifice the blood of animals every time we transgress the law. The law of clean and unclean food given in Leviticus 11 is still in effect. The law prohibiting incest is still intact. The law of not eating fat or blood is still applicable. All the sexual laws are still in force.
Yahshua is the embodiment of the law; He is the word of Elohim. So why will He want to do away with Himself. Why will the one who gave us the law for our own good, want to destroy it. He created the law of gravity and that is still in force (see Hebrews 1: 3). Paul said that the commandments are just, good and perfect. In his writings we see that the law is Spiritual and can therefore not be destroyed. According to the scriptures discussed below Yahshua came to establish a new priesthood.
In Hebrew 8: 3 we see: ‘For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices ; hence it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer.' In Hebrews 9: 22 – 28 we read: ‘And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.' ‘Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Messiah did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of Elohim for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with the blood not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Messiah also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for the salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.'
In Hebrews 10: 4 – 7 we read (a direct quote from Psalm 40: 6 – 8): ‘For is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when He comes into the world He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERINGS THOU HAST NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY THOU HAST PREPARED FOR ME; IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND SACRIFICES FOR SIN THOU HAST TAKEN NO PLESSURE. Then I said, ‘Behold I have come to do Thy will o Elohim.'” Dropping down to verse 9 we read: Then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Thy will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. This is talking about the priesthood. Yahshua has done away with the Levitical Priesthood, with its requirement to shed the blood of animals for the forgiveness of sin, to establish the Melchizedek Priesthood.
In Hebrews 7: 11 – 18 we read: “Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood, what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Machizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiate at the altar. For it is evident that our Master Yahshua was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clear still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Mechizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirements of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of Him, “THOU ART A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MECHIZEDEK. “
When YHWH gave the Law to our forefathers, through Moses, all He wanted from them was obedience. This we read In Jeremiah 7: 22 as follows: “ For I did not speak to your fathers or command them in the day that I brought them out of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them saying ‘ Obey My voice and I will be your Elohim, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you. '” A second witness to this in Hosea 6: 6 reads as follows: “For I delight in kindness and not in slaughtering, and in the knowledge of Elohim more than burnt offerings.” YHWH wants us to know and obey Him rather than bring Him Sacrifices and burnt offerings. In Galatians 3: 19 we read: “Why then the Law? (This is talking about the Sacrificial Law). It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made.” We know that this seed is Yahshua. When Yahshua became the sacrifice, He introduced the new Priesthood, effectively doing away with the sacrificial requirements of the Law in respect of sin. However, from Scriptures it is also clear that even though YHWH does not require sin offerings any longer, righteous sacrifices will again be offered in the future, during the millennium and possibly on into eternity. In Psalm 51:16 - 19 we read:”For You do not desire slaughtering, or I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The slaughterings of Elohim are a broken spirit, A Heart broken and crushed, O Elohim, These You do not despise. Do good in Your good pleasure to Tsiyon; Build the walls of Yerusalayim. Then You would delight in slaughterings of righteousness, In burnt offering and complete burnt offering; Then young bulls would be offered on Your altar.” So we are only really talking here about the sacrificial system, as it applied to sin. Righteous sacrifices will still have its place in the world tomorrow.
Before Yahshua all men were shut up under sin – being indebted to the law. But now that Yahshua came, the promise by faith in Him is given to those who believe in Him. He has become the Sacrifice required by the law to pay for our indebtedness for breaking the law. In Col 2: 14 we read and I paraphrase: "having nailed the indebtedness of the law to the cross.” This does not say Yahshua nailed the law to the cross, but he nailed our certificate of debt for breaking the Law to the cross. Meaning He has redeemed us from having to die the second death for our own sins.
The New Covenant is therefore indeed better than the Old Covenant, with its sacrificial system. The New Covenant contains all the original laws, except for the fact that Yahshua's blood was sacrificed once for all, and there is no more need to sacrifice the blood of animals every time we sin. In Revelation we see that if we want to be part of the ones that will rule with Yahshua during His millennial rule and on into eternity, we are still required to keep the commandments and to believe in the Testimony of Yahshua. This tells me that if we want to be part of YHWH's people, we better keep the commandments. They are not suggestions, so that we may only use them as guidelines. If we want to be in the Kingdom of Elohim, we better enjoy keeping the commandments, for it isn't burdensome.
The Torah is our manual – it tells us how to live in relationship to YHWH, to ourselves and toward one another . It is similar with any new appliance or motor vehicle that we buy. It comes with an operating manual. If you want to ensure that the vehicle or appliance last as long as possible and that, if it breaks the manufacturer will honor the guarantee, it pays you to read the Manufacturer's manual and to use the appliance or vehicle, accordingly. If the Manufacturer instructs that you to use only un-leaded fuel in the vehicle, I am positive that you will not put Diesel in the fuel tank. In Leviticus 11 our Maker/Manufacturer YHWH our Elohim tells us what fuel to put in our stomachs. It is for us to decide if we want to believe our maker. If we do not believe Him, why call ourselves after HIS Name.
If we are followers of Messiah Yahshua, then we will believe in Him and believe in what He taught. Yahshua has never taught or abolished any laws, except for fulfilling the requirements of the sacrificial laws. Even in the very last book of Revelation (22): 13 and 14, Yahshua said: "I am the Alpha (Aleph) and the Omega (Tav), the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last" "Blessed are those doing HIS commands so that the authority shall be theirs unto the tree of life, and to enter through the gates of the City" - the new Jerusalem. (Verse 14 of Rev 22 was quoted, as it is here given by Tertulian (CE 208) and by Cyprian (CE 251) two well-known Ante Nicene Fathers). Whoever eats of the tree of life will have everlasting life. To be able to partake of the tree of life, we will have to wear clean garments, by keeping the Commandments of YHWH and believe in the Testimony of Yahshua. The choice is ours.
How do we show YHWH our Elohim that we love Him? How does a child show his parent that he loves his/her parent? A child shows his/her love to her/his parents by obeying his/her parent's teachings. The problem with Christianity is that they see Torah as strict laws that apply to Jews only. Torah should simply be seen as the teachings of YHWH our Elohim.
In 1John 5:3 we read " For this is the love of Elohim, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not burdensome." So we see that we show YHWH that we love Him by doing what pleases Him, His teaching – His Torah. Yes, Israel is YHWH chosen people, but in Isaiah 56:6 & 7 we see “Also the sons of the foreigner who joins themselves to YHWH, to serve HIM, and to love the Name of YHWH, to be His servants, all who guard the Sabbath and not profane it, and hold fast to My covenant – them I shall bring to My set-apart mountain, and let them rejoice in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings are accepted on My altar, for My house is called a house of prayer for all the peoples”
So it is clear that the Torah is not for Jewish people only. The Set-apart (Feast) Days are not Jewish Holy Days - they are the Set-apart days of YHWH and not meant only for Jews. Read Leviticus 23 for yourself and you will find the YHWH said that the Sabbath and those FEASTS days are HIS. They, like all the other laws, are not suggestions, they are commanded assemblies. We are required to keep them. Similarly, with the law of clean food in Leviticus 11. It is written: "Be Holy for I am Holy" it is a COMMAND, if you want to be Holy as YHWH is Holy, then you will avoid unclean foods. This verse is written in the book of Peter and this is a direct quote from Leviticus 11, where the clean and unclean meats are discussed. However, the choice is completely ours.
YHWH says and I paraphrase "Keep my commandments and live”. The commandments are for our own good. In the book of James (Ya'aqob) we read that we show our faith by our DEEDS. A second witness to this is found in Romans 2: 13: "for not the hearers of the Law are just before Elohim, but the DOERS of the Law will be justified."
There is therefore no more excuse. The teachings of YHWH are as applicable today as it was yesterday and will be forever. These same laws will be applicable during the millennial Kingdom and on into eternity.
Contributed by Jim Coetzee, Republic of South Africa, 25th January, 2006
The Difference between the Old and New Covenants
(Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version)
1) The following summary presents the principle points of why I no longer keep the Sabbath:
- Terms and conditions of a covenant can change from one period or one covenant to another:
- Adam was given every green plant for food Genesis 1:29-30
- The covenant that God made with Noah allowed man to eat everything (plant and animal) Genesis 9:1-5
- The covenant that God made with Israel forbade the eating of unclean foods Leviticus 11:1-46
- When God made a promissory covenant with Abraham, He gave him the sign of circumcision Genesis 17:1-14
Circumcision was also included in the Old Covenant made with Israel, Leviticus 12:1-3, but is not part of the New Covenant, Galatians 5:2-6 & Galatians 6:12-15.
2) The 10 commandments are the covenant that God made with Israel at Mt Sinai. Deuteronomy 4:10-14; note verse 14 “He declared to you (Israel) his covenant, the Ten Commandments…” and Deuteronomy 5:1-22; note verses 2-3 state that the Ten Commandment covenant (with its Sabbath sign) was not given to the fathers (patriarchs) of the Hebrew nation. This covenant came 430 years after God first announced his covenant with Abraham, Galatians 3:17.
*The 10 commandments are the foundation of the Old Covenant.
There is no doubt Jesus made a New Covenant in His blood at His death, therefore we are not under the Old Covenant, but in the New Covenant. Matthew 26:26-29. This is the everlasting covenant, Hebrews 13:20-21.
In Hebrews 8:13 the writer says that the Old covenant is obsolete and passing away and in Hebrews 10:9 the first (old) covenant has been taken away so that the second (new) covenant can be established.
Paul gives an analogy in Galatians 4:21-31 between Hagar and Sarah and their children. Hagar represents the Old Covenant and we are told to get rid of the slave woman and her son (the Covenant of Sinai being the bond servant and her son.)
In 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 Paul teaches that the ministry (old covenant/law) that brought death was glorious, but is fading away, and has been superseded by the ministry (new covenant/Holy Spirit) that brings righteousness which is more glorious and will last (forever).
So the question is “Did the Sabbath law pass through into the New Covenant, as many of the Old Covenant laws are found in the New Testament writings?”. For example, the equivalent of “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14) is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 - adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The issue of the difference between the Old and New Covenants appears to have been a very hard issue for the early church to reconcile. The book of Acts shows there was a group called the Pharisees in the early church. They wanted to continue circumcision and at times this group even influenced Peter in relation to Jewish customs (Galatians 2:11-16). In the book of Acts Paul made some type of Nazirite vow and cut off his hair (Acts 18:18) and upon his return to Jerusalem the Jewish Christians got Paul to make another Nazirite type vow and show the Jewish converts that he was observing the law. Acts 21:17-25
During the first 10 years the church was made up of Jews. The apostles did not wake up on the morning of the resurrection and instantly grasp the meaning of the new covenant. The first Christian community arose in Jerusalem and was composed of Aramaic-speaking Jews. They continued their Jewish way of life - i.e. they worshiped at the temple (Acts 2:46-47 & Acts 3:1-3), they often preached the gospel there (Acts 5:25) and they were circumcising their children (Acts 21:20-21). Given the later problems Paul had to address about circumcision, it is safe to say the early Christians, being Jews, were circumcising their boys and kept the Jewish festivals (including the weekly Sabbath). This devotion and adherence to the Law commended them to their fellow Jews (Acts 2:46-47). Later, in Acts 21:17-20, new Jewish converts were still zealous for the law – including circumcision and Jewish customs.
About 10 years after the church had been established, the apostles ventured out to take the gospel beyond Jewry. First to the Samaritans, then to the Ethiopian eunuch (appears to be a proselyte) and finally to the Gentiles. In order to take such steps, these Christians had to ignore their Jewish customs. Peter had to ignore the Jewish customs by associating with Gentiles in the home of Cornelius (Acts 10; 11:2-3). When shown a vision of unclean meats and being told to kill and eat, Peter's first reaction was “Surely not, I have never eaten anything unclean.” This shows that as a Jew he was still observing the unclean and clean meats laws – 10 years after the New Covenant had been established. Even for the apostle Peter the change between the Old and New Covenants was difficult – Paul later rebuked Peter's attitude in following Jewish customs and not eating with Gentile believers. (Galatians 2:11-14).
After the Gentile mission had flourished at Antioch, some of the Jews of the circumcision group became apprehensive about the Gentile converts. They began to urge that Gentile Christians should be circumcised - which Paul and Barnabas sharply disagreed with. (Acts 15:1-4) Paul and other believers went up to Jerusalem where they told the church about how God was calling the Gentiles to the faith. The party which belonged to the Pharisees said the Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses (Acts 15:5). A meeting was called and it was decided that the Gentile converts did not have to observe the law because they had been saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus, Galatians 2:11-21. They sent Paul back with a letter to tell the Gentile Christians to abstain from:
- Food sacrificed to idols,
- Meat of strangled animals, and
- Sexual immorality. (Acts 15:6-29).
The apostle recognized the Holy Spirit's fait accompli. Hence it was not necessary for Gentiles to be circumcised or to keep the law. The move to compel Gentile believers to be circumcised and to keep the law was contrary to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This decree to the Gentiles was again supported in Acts 21:17-25 (note verse 25). The converted Jews in Jerusalem were keeping the law, including circumcision, and Jewish customs. The apostles said to Paul that these Jews had heard he was preaching that Gentile converts did not have to keep the law of Moses. They asked Paul to take a vow and join in purification rites to show he was still living by the law. Paul was prepared to do this, but the disciples added that the decisions made in the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) were still applicable to the Gentile believers – i.e. Gentile believers did not have to observe the law of Moses but had to abstain from 4 things (see above). What happened in the early church was consistent with when Jesus informed his disciples that He had more to teach them, which at that stage was more than they could bear. John16:12-13 & John 14:25-26
3) The New Testament must always remain the Christian's final authority. That which is declared to us through Jesus and his apostles is God's final word (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:1-2). The Old Testament is also God's word, but it is not his final word. That which was binding under the Old Testament (covenant) age is not necessarily binding under the New Testament (covenant) age.
4) Biblical covenants have their special seals or signs. The rainbow was the sign of the Noachic covenant (Genesis 9:12-13). Circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 17:10; Romans 4:11). The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic (old) covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12). The Holy Spirit is the seal or sign of the new covenant (Acts 2:14; 19:2; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). Nowhere does the New Testament even imply that the Sabbath is the sign which distinguishes God's people under the new covenant.
5) There is no biblical record of any command to keep the Sabbath until the time of Moses. Neither is there any biblical record of people keeping the Sabbath until it was given to Israel. There is no biblical evidence that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob kept the Sabbath. In fact Deuteronomy 5:1 - 3 says the Covenant made with Israel - the 10 commandments was not made with their fathers (patriarchs) verses 6 – 22.
* Note: I do understand the argument that Israel was shown which day was the Sabbath before they made the Covenant of Sinai. The issue is not the day - the Sabbath is the 7 th day - the argument is a covenant issue because requirements of one covenant are not necessarily requirements of another. Did the Sabbath law pass through into the New Covenant?
6) The New Testament nowhere commands Christians to observe either the seventh or the first day of the week as a Christian Sabbath/Lord's Day.
7) The argument that the 7th day Sabbath was given to man at creation. Genesis 2:2-3 simply says that God rested on the "seventh day" after his work of creation had ended. Since the creation was finished, God's rest was to be ongoing. Thus, the "seventh day" of Genesis 2:2-3 was open-ended. Unlike the preceding six days, the seventh day was not bounded by evening and morning. Genesis mentions no creation ordinance commanding man to rest. Neither does it record any instance of man keeping a weekly Sabbath before the exodus.
*I agree the Sabbath is holy and points back to creation and therefore the Creator. This was stated by the LORD as a reason for Israel to rest on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11) in the Old Covenant, but Genesis mentions no creation law for man to rest on the Sabbath.
8) The creation ordinances of marriage and dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26-30) were repeated to Noah, the new father of the postdiluvian world (Genesis 9:1-11). It is significant that Noah was given no command to keep the Sabbath - further evidence that Sabbath observance was not a creation ordinance.
9) The Sabbath was given to Israel (Nehemiah 9:13-14). Although it was patterned after the creation model, this twenty-four-hour rest was obviously not identical to God's permanent rest which followed a finished creation (Genesis 2:2-3; Hebrews 3:12-19 & Hebrews 4:1-11). The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic, Sinaitic or old covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12). Most scholars now agree that there is no evidence of a Sabbath institution outside Israel.
10) The Old Testament nowhere indicates that Gentile nations should keep the Sabbath. Although the sins of Gentile cities and nations are often specified by the prophets, only Israel was ever chided for breaking the Sabbath. Paul appears to follow this Old Testament tradition in Romans 1. Although he lists about twenty-two Gentile sins, he does not mention Sabbath-breaking.
11) In the Old Testament, Gentiles were to keep the Sabbath only if they chose to bind themselves to the LORD – it is likely that these were Jewish proselytes who entered into the Old Covenant. Isaiah 56:6-7.
12) As a Jew, Jesus lived under the institutions of the old covenant. He was circumcised and kept the Sabbath, the Passover and the other Old Covenant festivals - He healed a leper and then told him to offer the sacrifice commanded in the Law (Luke 5:14). He would heal and do good on the Sabbath. Nothing in the entire Law could cease to be binding until Jesus fulfilled it all by his death on the cross (Matthew 5:17-19; John 19:30; Romans 3:21-25; Galatians 3: 19[“until the seed should come”]). But on the evening of his death, Jesus instituted the New Covenant and sealed it by his sacrificial death (Matthew 26:27-28; Luke 22:20). It took the New Covenant community some time under the leading of the Holy Spirit, however, before it could grasp the full implications of life under a new covenant (see John 16:12-15).
13) Paul gave theological justification for the law of Moses free mission to the Gentiles (but not a law of Christ free mission) - i.e.:
(1) In Galatians Paul showed that the age of Moses and the Torah Law had been superseded by the age of Christ and the Spirit. The Law had acted as a custodian and a guardian until the coming of Christ (Galatians 3:19, 24-25; 4:14). Now that Christ had come, God's people were no longer under the supervision of the Law (Galatians 3:25; 5:18). Instead of living under the Law of Moses, the Galatians should live under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
(2) In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul showed that the old covenant had been superseded by the more glorious ministration of the Spirit under the New Covenant.
(3) In Ephesians 2:14-15, Paul said that the Torah Law with its commandments and regulations acted as a dividing wall of partition and caused hostility between Jew and Gentile. But Christ had abolished this barrier by his death on the cross.
14) In 1 Corinthians 9:20-23, Paul declared that he did not live under the Torah Law (except in a voluntary way), yet he was still subject to God's law in the sense that he lived under the law of Christ.
The main issues Paul addressed were Jewish requirements such as circumcision, the food laws and observing days. In the Pauline letters there is evidence that Paul was in conflict with Jewish Christians who were urging Gentiles to practice these requirements.
Paul was vehemently opposed to those who wanted to impose these regulations on the Gentiles. In Colossians 2:16-17, he declared:
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
In Galatians 4:10-11, to Gentile Christians, he wrote:
“You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you”.
To the churches in Rome, which were composed of both Jews and Gentiles, Paul wrote:
One man [context: Jewish Christians whose faith is weak] considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” - Romans 14:5
15) The argument of silence – this argument works both ways.
It is said by Sabbath keepers “Why is there silence in relation to such an important issue as not having to keep the Sabbath? – wouldn't the Pharisee group have caused a stir if the Gentiles hadn't been keeping the Sabbath?” I suggest Paul's advice to the Colossians in Colossians 2:16-17 is not silence on the issue. However, I do agree that there is more of a focus on circumcision than Sabbath-breaking and if I am to be consistent with what I have argued previously (i.e. the early Christians, being Jews, found it difficult to move from the Old Covenant to the New) this needs to be answered.
I note that in the whole of the New Testament the writers never list Sabbath breaking as a sin (lust of the flesh). There are a number of lists of sins and many individual sins are listed, but Sabbath breaking is not one. How strange that these new converts were warned against committing all kinds of sins (e.g. Paul lists fifteen sins in Galatians 5:19-21, eighteen sins in 2 Timothy 3:2-4 and many more in other places) but Sabbath-breaking is never mentioned. The apostles and other writers never give instructions to Christians on how to keep the Sabbath under the New Covenant. Paul wrote so many letters with so much practical instruction on living the Christian life and does not mention Sabbath-keeping as if it were an obligation for Gentile Christians.
Given Paul addresses both slaves of Christians and slaves of non-Christians in his letters (1 Timothy 6:1-2) - why is Sabbath-breaking not mentioned? In an age when the Roman world had no weekly rest day, there is no historical evidence that Christians suffered hardship or persecution because of the Sabbath. Many Christians were slaves who had to work every day of the week. In Gentile societies there was no weekly free day, only the pagan festivals at irregular intervals" (Moule, Birth of the New Testament , p. 18). Christian slaves had no rights, they couldn't go up to their masters and say, “I've become a Christian so I cannot work for you on the Sabbath.” Also, given Israel's history of breaking the Sabbath, it would be expected that the issue of how to keep it would be addressed in some way. Paul never wrote to the Gentile churches or slaves about Sabbath-keeping.
16) According to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, God's people in the age of the New Covenant would be identified by loyalty to Christ (Acts 11:26; Romans 10:9), possession of the Spirit (Acts 19:2; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; 5:18) and love for one another (John 13:34).
17) Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the only two Christian ordinances or sacraments that have been universally identified with Christianity.
18) The New Testament is not concerned with holy days any more than it is concerned with holy places (see John 4:19-24) or "clean" food (Mark 7:19; Romans 14:1-5, 14, 20; 1 Corinthians 8:8; 10:23-27; Colossians 2:16-17; 1 Timothy 4:3-5). To emphasize these questions is to distort the spirituality and ethical concerns of the New Testament (see Matthew 25:31-46; Gal 5:6).
19) Under the old covenant God sanctified a particular nation for service, a particular place for worship, particular food as "clean" and particular days for rest. Under the new covenant there is a catholicizing or universalizing of the particular. No longer are people from one nation designated as holy (Acts 10:28 & 34); no longer is one geographical site set aside for the worship of God (John 4:19-24); no longer is there a distinction between religiously "clean" and "unclean" food (Mark 7:19; Romans 14:14 & 20); and no longer is there a distinction of days (John 5:16-17; Romans 14:5; Colossians 2:16-17). Christ does not desacralize people, places, food and time, but he redeems all and asserts his Lordship over all (1 Corinthians 10:26).
The idea of designating one day as holy is just as irrelevant in this new age of the Spirit as designating one place as holy. Such particularism belongs to the Old Covenant age and is contrary to the catholic spirit of the Christian age.
20) Those who experience hardship because of Sabbath regulations are doubtlessly sincere in their desire to serve God, but they are ill-informed and bear burdens that God has not laid on the universal church.
21) The Gentile Christians were free to choose their time of common assembly. They were not bound by Old Testament commandments in this matter. Certainly, no New Testament commandments were imposed upon them in respect to the observance of days (Romans 14:5; Galatians 4:10-11; Colossians 2:16; Hebrews 10:25).
22) The International dateline – The international dateline is not from God, but was decided upon by a group of men. The problem is that a person in the Pacific islands could be working on a Friday, yet a person in New Zealand be worshipping on the Sabbath, but in fact the sun is only 15 degrees different in the sky – nowhere near a full day's difference.
23) Evidence suggests that the early Christians were meeting at the temple as they were Jews and also fellowshipping in houses (see Acts 2:46-48 & Acts 12:12-17). After their flight from Jerusalem to Pella in A.D. 62, and after they began to be expelled from Jewish synagogues (c. A.D. 70), Jewish Christians started to meet with Gentile Christians. After the outbreak of the Jewish-Roman wars, Jewish Christians were increasingly branded as traitors because they did not join in the conflict against Rome. It appears these Jewish Christians were more inclined to identify with Gentile Christianity. ‘Judaic' Christianity, following the signification given by F. J. A. Hort, we identify with that section of the Jerusalem Church which, from the beginning, held a liberal outlook concerning the Law. It inclined to the Pauline view with regard to the Gentiles; it found itself in opposition to the Jewish authorities; it was compelled to take refuge in Pella, and in the Diaspora it united with the main body of the catholic Church. These Jewish Christians soon lost their identity through intermarriage, as there were no barriers to separate them from the Gentile Church.... A proportion of the Hebrew Church, even prior to the Destruction of Jerusalem, was swallowed up by catholic Christianity. This Jewish element was steadily reinforced by means of conversion and intermarriage, especially after the fall of Jerusalem. It is usually held that the Jewish element within the catholic Church was numerically insignificant. But this is difficult to ascertain. Their influence, however, upon the Gentile Church was of the greatest possible importance. Gentile Christianity owes to those Jewish Christians the handing on of the primitive tradition, the emphasis upon the moral aspect of religion, the exegetical understanding of the Old Testament; but above all, the Old Testament itself. It is doubtful whether the Gentiles, without the insistence of Hebrew Christians, would have retained the Old Testament canon. The importance of this cannot be overestimated" (Jocz , Jewish People and Jesus Christ, pp. 174, 198).
Pliny's letter to the Emperor Trajan (c. A.D. 111-112) testifies to the general practice of Christians assembling early in the morning before they went to work as there was no weekly day of rest in the Roman Empire at that time. Pliny's famous letter to Trajan (c. A.D. 111-112) is also clear evidence that early Christians had no free day of rest. They met for worship early in the morning (probably on the first day of the week), and then they went to work. See Bruce, New Testament History , pp. 423-24.
The early Jewish Christians at Jerusalem continued to keep the Sabbath (on this point all notable Protestant, Catholic and Jewish historians are now agreed); the Gentile Christians did not.
Some Jewish Christians continued to keep the Law, including the Sabbath, as necessary for themselves but not necessary for Gentile Christians. Yes, there were groups who continued to keep the Sabbath particularly in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire. The most notable were called the Nazarenes. Justin Martyr (A.D. 114-165) was prepared to recognize that the Nazarenes were Christians, although he admitted that some Gentile Christians would not. The Nazarenes, like all who remained Jewish Christians, were strongly apocalyptic. They increasingly became weak and the movement died out.
There were also Jewish Christians who not only kept the Law and the Sabbath themselves, but insisted that all Christians must do the same. These were known as Ebionites. Their hero was James; their enemy, Paul. They were ascetic (vegetarians, teetotallers) and apocalyptic, and they denied the divinity of Christ. They combined Gnostic ideas with their Judaistic tendencies. They were denounced by the church fathers and were regarded as outside the bounds of the Christian church. The Ebionite movement finally became lost in history, and it appears the remnants were absorbed into Islam . See Danielou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity , pp. 55-64; Jocz, Jewish People and Jesus Christ , pp. 172-73; 194-98; Dunn , Unity and Diversity , pp. 240-45.
24) What about where the Sabbath is mentioned in Acts?
Acts 13:13-15 (13-41) Paul went to the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch and declared the Good News of Jesus to the Jews who met there.
Acts 13:42-44 After they heard the gospel, some Jews and some Gentile converts asked Paul to speak to them again the next Sabbath – which Paul did.
Acts 16:11-15 On the Sabbath Paul and his fellow servants went out to find a place to pray and they met Lydia, who was converted on that very day.
Acts 17:1-3 When Paul came to Thessalonica, as his custom was, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. He again preached the gospel to the Jews. A few Jews and God fearing Gentiles were converted.
Acts 18:1-4 At Athens Paul went to the synagogue every Sabbath and preached the gospel, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
The Sabbath, and Paul going to the synagogue, is mentioned a number of times in the book of Acts. Some may argue that this shows that the Sabbath continued after the death of Christ – which I agree with, as the Sabbath is the 7 th day of the week. However, if we read the context of these passages it does not state that Paul and his fellow-workers were keeping the Sabbath as a law, but were meeting Jews and Gentile/Jewish converts on these days to reason with them that Jesus was the Christ.
As mentioned above, the early Christians were Jews and were keeping the Sabbath, but as my article tries to show, they hadn't yet come to a full understanding of the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. In the early church the group of Christians of the Pharisees and other Jewish believers were still practicing circumcision. It may be said that this was a time of transition between the Covenants – a learning period while things became clearer bit by bit.
It was this time that the apostle Paul was addressing, teaching about the New Covenant. Chapter 15 deals with whether the Law of Moses was still binding upon Christians. The conclusion was that it was not. (Acts 15:1,19,24). While the Temple was still standing (before 70 AD) God allowed this period for the 2 covenants to operate side by side. During this period even Paul offered sacrifices (Acts 21:26). He explains his willingness to do this in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 - to win more to Christ. The term Sabbath is still appropriate to use today, for the Jews still observe it. That doesn't indicate that because Luke used it in Acts, it is necessary for us to observe. Look at Acts 18:21. Does this mean we should be observing the Feast of Tabernacles?
25) Mark 2:27-28 – We should keep the Sabbath because Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath
a) Look at the context. What Jesus is saying is "Because the Sabbath was made for man (not man for the sabbath) therefore as Son of Man, He is Lord of the Sabbath and is not bound by the human laws or and even Mosaic laws concerning it, as He gives the example of David breaking the ceremonial laws of the Temple and with his men eating the showbread which was not lawful for them to do. (Mark 5:25-26). He is the one who created the Sabbath and therefore, as its Creator, He is greater than the it – particularly any human customs/laws concerning it. He here equates one of the Ten Commandments with the other Mosaic laws. But what Jesus is saying to the nation of Israel, is specifically for them and must be interpreted with this in mind (Matthew 15:24; 10:5-6). This will be elaborated on in the following:
b) One cannot indiscriminately take statements like 'Jesus said he was Lord of the Sabbath, so why don't we keep it?' It's like saying ‘Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day so why aren't all male Christians to be circumcised?' Or, ‘Because Jesus kept the feast of tabernacles (John 7:2, 8-10, 37) we should do so also'. Or, ‘Because Jesus attended the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22), we should too'. We need to realise that there are practices of Jesus and things He said while He was under the Old Covenant, as He had not yet fulfilled all the law. This is because Jesus was born 'under the law' (Galations 4:4) and had to teach everything consistent with the Old Covenant, which remained until his death when he cried "It is finished" (John 19:30). It was not until the apostle Paul was sent by Jesus to reveal more fully the New Covenant, that understanding came to the newly formed Christian Church.
Contributed by Greg Michaelson, Australia, 21st February, 2006