The Sabbath in the New Testament (4 of 4)

Recently, blogger Xulon, from Theologica posted this excellent series focusing on ethics, Law, and the question of the Sabbath. This is post 4 of 4.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days —these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ! (Colossians 2:16-17)

These verses contain one of two uses of the word Sabbath in the New Testament Epistles. The other is Hebrews 4:9 which says there is a Sabbath rest for the people of God (Besides this, the word is used 9 times in Acts and 49 times in the Gospels). Combined, these two verses teach us that the Sabbath Rest provided for the believer is the Gospel of Christ (or, if you wish, Christ himself). But they also teach that the keeping of the Sabbath was a shadow, now fulfilled.

Some people say that since The Sabbath is Christ, believers are still obligated to One Day in Seven. I use the phrase that was used by one who was trying to teach that the Sabbath obligation still applied in the New Testament. He had to change the Fourth Commandment from “Remember the Sabbath to keep it Holy” to “One Day in Seven”. “Of course”, he said. “I do not mean Friday sunset to Saturday sunset”, as if the day (and some of the ceremonies) was what Christ changed. If The command is still in force, how does the commandment get changed in particulars (through extra-biblical reasoning as the Scriptures do not contain this change) but still obligates the believer for whom Christ is the Sabbath? At least the Seventh Day Sabbatarians, though still wrong, are consistent. For the sake of this blog, I make no distinction between those who hold to a seventh day Sabbath and those who say that the “obligation” has now been moved to The Lord’s Day.

In the Book of Acts, the word Sabbath is used 8 times, if you don’t count 1:12 in which “Sabbath day’s journey” is used as a unit of measurement. 6 of these refer to meeting times for the Jews which the Apostles joined for the sake of presenting Christ to them. The other two are in sermons in which the Jewish authorities are said to have “fulfilled the sayings of the prophets that are read every Sabbath”. In no case is the meeting on the Sabbath said to be obligated but presented as the Apostles’ way to evangelize the Jews. “To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews” is how Paul presents it in 1 Corinthians 9:20. Likewise, there is no transference of the day. In 20:7 they were gathered “on the first day of the week … to break bread”. This may indicate such a day transfer, but it seems flimsy evidence for an obligation. The first day could have been the day in Paul’s visit that they chose to have a big meal together and Paul talked with them.

Probably the most important section on this question is: One person regards one day holier than other days, and another regards them all alike. Each must be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day does it for the Lord. The one who eats, eats for the Lord because he gives thanks to God, and the one who abstains from eating abstains for the Lord, and he gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:5-6) This section talks about regarding days and that this is a matter of personal preference rather than obligation. Like the Colossians passage, the day is not a matter for judgment (particularly judging others) but to be convinced in your own mind. The focus of the blog is on those who obligate the Church to the Sabbath observance, not ones who in their spiritual walk choose personal practices for one day a week. To those who see the One Day in Seven as an obligation, beyond a preference, there are other passages which work against them.

Paul wrote Galatians as a polemic against Judaizers who wished to place Gentile believers under the Law of Moses. But now that you have come to know God (or rather to be known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless basic forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? You are observing religious days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you that my work for you may have been in vain. (Galatians 4:9-11) The Law of Moses is here called “weak and worthless basic forces” and that one aspect of the hetero-gospel is “observing … days”. Paul says such an observance is enslaving.

The Colossians passage which starts this article refers to people being enslaved by others judging them based on their food or feasts or Sabbaths. Paul goes on to say: If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world? “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” These are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are on human commands and teachings. Even though they have the appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship and false humility achieved by an unsparing treatment of the body — a wisdom with no true value — they in reality result in fleshly indulgence. (Colossians 2:20-23) Submitting to extra-biblical commands – including the Sabbath – has only apparent wisdom. They, having not come from God, are of no value in fighting the flesh.

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3 thoughts on “The Sabbath in the New Testament (4 of 4)

Interesting posts Rey. I know this is only 3 short blog posts and they are very well written…doesn’t this really boil down to a dispensational vs. covenant theology debate at it’s core? I have had some problems with the dispensational view of scripture for some time, at least how they are explained and laid out in “Things to Come” by Dwight Pentacost. It just doesn’t seem to explain the bible well in tems of the big picture…admittedly I’m not a big reader on the topic. Anyway, I appreciated reading your posts on this Sabbath morning;) Hope you guys are well! Blessings my old friend.

How do you say this boils down to Dispensationalism vs Covenentalism? I believe that I quoted Scriptures and that without labels.

Whatever theological baggage I may have brought to the table – and I’m not saying I have none – it seems to me the introduction of labels allows for the wholesale dismissal of the Scriptural argument without interaction.

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