Church columnist: Is observing the Sabbath still relevant to Christians?
This week’s article is in response to some questions I received concerning the Sabbath observance today.
There are some denominations that believe Christians are commanded to keep the Sabbath under the Law of Christ just as the Jews were to keep the Sabbath under the Law of Moses (cf. Exodus 20:8).
The first question is: “When or where in the New Testament did Christ abolish the Ten Commandments?”
There is no “red letter” passage where Jesus said that the Ten Commandments, along with the rest of the Law of Moses, was abolished. However, there are several indications of the Law’s end throughout the Bible.
Moses himself even indicated the temporary nature of the law he was giving Israel. In Deuteronomy, Moses told the children of Israel that God would raise for them another prophet, like him (Deuteronomy 18:17-19).
A prophet like Moses would be a law-giving prophet. God told Moses that there would be another lawgiver and that the people would have to hear His word from that prophet. Jesus was that prophet like Moses (Acts 3:19-23).
The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, said that God would make a new covenant with the children of Israel that would be different from the covenant given through Moses (Jeremiah 31:31-32). The Hebrews writer quotes from Jeremiah to show that Christians are not under the Law of Moses but the Covenant of Christ (Hebrews 8:7-10).
The “first covenant” that the Hebrews writer refers to is the Old Testament. The “fault” found with it doesn’t mean that there was something wrong with it. The Old Testament did exactly what God gave it to do.
The “fault” what that is the Jews were trying to hold on to it after it had been fulfilled. The Hebrews writer, throughout the entire letter, shows over and over that it is not possible to hold to the Old Testament and be a follower of Christ (cf. Hebrews 7:11-14).
The answer to the when and where of the question is when Christ said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and died on the cross. Paul said that it was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). In Ephesians 2:14, Paul said that Christ has brought both Jew and Gentile together under a new covenant.
The Law of Moses, which included the Ten Commandments, kept Jew and Gentile separate but Christ has broken down that “middle wall of separation.” He “abolished in His flesh” the Old Testament Law of Moses (Ephesians 2:15).
Some claim that there is a difference between the “ceremonial law” and the “moral law” of the Old Testament. They claim that what was abolished by Christ was the “ceremonial law;” i.e. feast days, sacrifices, etc.; but not the “moral law.”
The Bible makes no such distinction between different parts of the old law. According to this distinction, the Sabbath Day law, as one of the Ten Commandments, is called a moral law and therefore wasn’t abolished.
However, the law against covetousness was also one of the Ten Commandments and Paul used it in his statement concerning the law being dead so the Jews could be married to Christ without being adulterers (Romans 7:1-12). So what law had they “become dead to” so that they could “be married to another”?
Paul specifically mentions Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet,” one of the Ten Commandments (Romans 7:7). Where is the distinction between “moral law” and “ceremonial law”? There is no such thing in the Bible! It is morally wrong to deny any law God gives for man to obey.
In response to this many say things like, “so then it’s okay to murder people now, since the Ten Commandments were abolished?” Of course it’s not okay to murder! It is just as wrong to murder today as it was under the Law of Moses then. But it isn’t because the Ten Commandments say, “You shall not murder,” (Exodus 20:13). It is because Christ, and the law of Christ, says, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15; cf. Matthew 5:21, 22; Romans 13:9).
It is very interesting that you can find nine of the Ten Commandments reiterated in the New Testament but there is no mention of one of them as being commanded by Christ or His apostles. Any guesses what the missing one might be?
Christians are commanded to put God first (Exodus 20:3; Matthew 22:37), to flee from idolatry (Exodus 20:4-6; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 John 5:21), to honor the name of God (Exodus 20:7; Matthew 6:9), to honor parents (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2), to honor human life (Exodus 20:13; Romans 13:9), to be faithful in marriage (Exodus 20:14; James 2:11), not to steal (Exodus 20:15; Ephesians 4:28), to be honest (Exodus 20:16; Revelation 21:8), and not to covet (Exodus 20:17; Hebrews 13:5).
Christians obey those commands because they are part of the New Testament of Christ, not because they are part of the Ten Commandments. However, there is not one instance of the Sabbath Day law being reiterated for the observance of Christians. To the contrary, Paul wrote to the Colossians that they were not to allow the Jews to bind the Sabbath law on them (Colossians 2:16).
We’ll discuss this subject further, and answer related questions, in future articles. Please contact me with any questions or comments.
Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or BibleQnA@NormFields.com.
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