Seventh Day Adventism

Are we lawless Christians?

Download recording

Download recording

We have been considering what the Scriptures say about the Law. We have seen that we are released from the Law (Romans 7:6). Does that mean that we are lawless? Are we lawless Christians?

The New Testament Scriptures show that we are no longer under the Law of Moses. If Christians are no longer under the Law, does that mean that we are lawless?

The Scriptures speak of our freedom in Christ. Does that mean that we free to do whatever we want to do?

1.      Released from the Law

The coming of Jesus Christ was not a minor event in the history of salvation. The eternal God took upon himself the form of a man. He became a real man while continuing to be truly God. He took upon himself not only our human nature, but on the cross, he took upon himself the sins of the entire world. He suffered, bled, and died as the spotless, perfect, Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice once and for all for the sins that you and I and every other human being has ever committed. Then God raised him from the dead. The wages of sin is death, but he paid the penalty of sin. His blood was shed to pay the penalty of sin. His body was broken to break the power of sin. Romans 4:25 says that Christ was delivered — i.e. crucified — for our sins and that he was raised for our justification. We are confronted with his incarnation, his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, his death on the cross for you and me, his resurrection from the dead, and 40 days later, his ascension to the right hand of his Father where he intercedes for you and me. Things cannot go on as usual. Everything has changed. When God dies and rises again, we cannot think that we are made right with him by following a list of rules.

As we have seen in recent weeks, the Old Covenant announced and pointed to the New Covenant. The Law of Moses was a parenthesis in the plan of God. The real deal was the Promise, the Promise that God had made to Abraham and ratified by the Prophets. Even the Law prophesied Christ the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But when Christ died, we died to the Law. As the body of Christ was torn, the curtain into the Holy of Holies, which was 18 meters high and 9 meters wide, was torn from top to bottom showing that God has opened a new and living way into his presence for us. Things cannot remain the same:

Hebrews 10:19-20 ESV Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,

The Son of God came and died and rose again. Everything has changed. We cannot go on living as if we were under the law: “Do this, do that!” No! The message of the gospel is not “Do this.” The message of the gospel is “Done!” “It is finished!”

So everything has changed for us. Hear these words:

Romans 7:4 ESV Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law…

Romans 7:6 ESV But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive…

Romans 6:14 ESV …you are not under law but under grace.

Galatians 3:13 ESV Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law…

Galatians 3:23-25 ESV Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,

The Scriptures also speak clearly of the fact that we are free.

John 8:32 ESV and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:36 NLT So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

Galatians 5:1 ESV For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

So these verses tell us that we are no longer under the Law because Christ came to set us free from the Law. We are therefore not to go back to the Law.

So does that mean that we can live however we want? Does that mean that we can continue to live the way we used to live before we became Christians?

That is what some people accused the Apostle Paul of saying. Paul explained in Romans 3 how our unrighteousness showed off the glorious righteousness of God, just like a candle glows all the brighter on a dark night. So some said, “Let’s keep on sinning! It makes God’s righteousness shine even more!” Paul speaks of these people in…

Romans 3:8 ESV And why not do evil that good may come?– as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

But that is not the gospel. Our liberty in Christ is not a license to sin.

The verses that I quoted moments ago go on to explain that we are no longer under the Law because God has given us what the Law could not give us: God has given us His Holy Spirit so that we may live righteously.

Romans 7:6 ESV But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Galatians 3:13-14 ESV Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us… so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

When the apostle tells us that we are no longer under the law but under grace, he is explaining that grace enables us to live righteous lives:

Romans 6:14 ESV For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Some people think that grace means that we can continue to sin. Not at all! Again Paul confronts this sinful way of thinking in…

Romans 6:1-4 NLT Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

When Jesus promised freedom, he was not promising freedom to sin. He was promising freedom from sin. When he spoke of knowing the truth and being set free he said,

John 8:34-36 ESV “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The good news of the gospel is that we do not have to be slaves to sin. Jesus came to set us free.

So what does all that mean? It means that being set free from the Law does not free us to continue to sin. Grace is not only unmerited favor. Grace is not only an undeserved kindness from God whereby he forgives us for all the rebellion and animosity and hatred toward him that is expressed by our sin. Grace is the power of God — the power of the Holy Spirit in us — to live in a way that is pleasing to God.

So grace is the power to desire and to do what pleases God:

Philippians 2:13 NLT For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Titus 2:11-12 ESV For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…

2.      The Problem with the Law

As we begin reading the New Testament, it becomes clear that freedom does not mean that we have a license to sin. Being in Christ does not mean that we can lie, or steal, or take the Lord’s name in vain, or covet someone’s iPhone or his wife. There are many passages in the New Testament that tell us that these works of the sinful nature are out of place in the life of the regenerated Christian. In fact, the Word of God contains severe warnings that we would do well to heed:

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NLT Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people– none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:3-7 NLT Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. 4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes– these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. 7 Don’t participate in the things these people do.

Now some of that sounds like the Ten Commandments: no idolatry, no stealing, no lying, no adultery, no coveting. The coming of Christ into the world did not make evil things good! His coming did not make sinful things less sinful! Sin is still sinful. And God is still holy, and he commands us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Here is the problem with the Law of Moses. The Law was external. It was a written code, written on stone tablets rather than on the heart of man. The Law of Moses was powerless to change man’s heart.

But in the New Covenant, the very Spirit of Christ comes into our hearts and begins His work of changing us into the image of Christ. What does that mean? It means that God is in the character building business and by His Spirit in us, he is working to make us to be more and more like His Son.

In each of the passages that I just quoted, the Apostle Paul goes on to talk about the change that Christ makes in our lives when we are in Christ:

1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Galatians 5:22-23 NLT But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Ephesians 5:8 NLT For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!

3.      Are We Lawless?

But the question remains: Are we lawless? Do we as Christians have no law? We will have to consider the evidence of the New Covenant, i.e. the New Testament.

The message of the New Testament is clear: you do not become a Christian by following rules or by obeying laws. A Christian is someone who is born of the Spirit of God. He has repented of his sin and has believed the message that it is done: Christ did everything that we needed for salvation. This is what the Word of God says in…

Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

So we are still left with the question: As Christians, do we or do we not have a law to guide us in the decisions that we must make from day to day, hour to hour, and minute to minute?

To answer that question, we must turn to 1 Corinthians 9.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul is talking about his freedom. Actually, he is telling the Corinthians that they should follow his example. For the sake of the gospel so that souls would be won to Christ, Paul did not make use of all his freedom. He did not make use of all of his rights. For example, he had the right to be married to a believing wife, but he was not married. He had the right to take a salary for his ministry, but he did not. His concern was winning people to Christ. This is what he said in…

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Now Paul says some remarkable things in this passage. It is frequently misunderstood by many who only quote part of it out of context. But this passage is important for our understanding of the role of law because in just two verses, verses 20 and 21, Paul uses the word “law” nine times!

  • “Under the law” – 5 times
  • “Outside the law” – 4 times

All that in just two verses.

Paul also uses the word “win” five times. He wants to

  • “Win more of them” (v. 19)
  • “Win Jews” (v. 20)
  • “Win those under the law” (v. 20)
  • “Win those outside the law” (v. 21)
  • “Win the weak”” (v. 22)

His mission is to “save some” that he might “share with them” in the blessings of the gospel (v. 22-23). So Paul talks about how he related to various groups of people in order to win them to Christ.

“To the Jews,” he said, “I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.”

Now that is a most remarkable statement, and it gives us great insight into the mind of this great missionary apostle. “To the Jews, I became as a Jew,” he said. Wait just a minute! Paul was a Jew! This is what he says about himself in another letter:

Philippians 3:5 NLT I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin– a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law.

So how does he say that he became as a Jew to the Jews?

Here we see that Christ changes everything. Paul’s real identity does not depend on the circumstances of his birth, where he was born, who his parents were, or even his personal past. He real identity is in Christ. He recognizes that God had set him apart even before he was born (Galatians 1:15). His citizenship is now in heaven (Philippians 3:20). When we come to Christ, we recognize that we belong to his lordship. He is our Lord, our Master, our God. Being American or Australian or Austrian or ni-Vanuatu or Vietnamese is secondary to our new identity as citizens of heaven.

More importantly, Paul realizes that being a Jew will not save him and that we do not have to become Jews in order to be right with God. We do not have to adopt Jewish culture or Jewish practices or the Jewish calendar. We do not have to worship on the Sabbath to be right with God, and worshiping on the Sabbath will certainly not make us right with God. Nonetheless, Paul says that he became as a Jew in order to win Jews to Christ. He could fit in with them. He could even go to the synagogue on the Sabbath in order to share the Good News with Jews that Jesus Christ came to do what keeping the Sabbath could never do: Jesus Christ came to make us right with God.

As if that was not enough, Paul makes an even more startling statement:

1 Corinthians 9:20 ESV …To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.

Here the Apostle clearly states that he is not under the Law. Yet, because the Law is not sin (Romans 7:7), Paul can follow certain practices of the Law in order to win those who are under the Law. So he can follow the Jewish practice of making a vow and cutting his hair (Acts 18:18; 21:23-27), for example, to reach his own people, the Jews. His desire is to win people to Christ.

Romans 10:1-4 ESV Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Paul says that the Jews are wrong think that they can get right with God by clinging to the Law. But he will become as one who is under the Law to reach them, though he plainly says that he is not himself under the Law.

In his desire to see people saved, the Apostle tries to win not only people who are under the Law, but people who are “outside the law”:

1 Corinthians 9:21 ESV To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

Who are these people who are “outside the Law”? They are Gentiles, like me and most of you. The Old Covenant of the Law was not made with us; it was made with the Israelites. So we are outside the Law. The Apostle Paul was sent by God as a missionary to the Gentiles. He adapted to the various cultures of the Gentiles. The old saying is, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” To some extent, that was Paul’s method. “To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law.” But immediately, Paul adds a qualification, just as he had with the previous statement. Though he became as one outside the law, he immediately adds that he was not outside the law of God.

Does everything depend on culture? Is right and wrong only a matter of culture? If we are not under the Law, how do we know what is right and what is wrong? If we are not under the Law, how do we know what we should do and what we should not do? When you are in Rome, can you do everything that the Romans do?

No, Paul says. “I am not outside the law of God.” What does that mean? He has just said that he is not under the Law. Now he says that he is not outside the law of God. So he is neither under the Law nor outside the law of God. Paul the Christian, yes, Paul the Apostle tells us Christians that we are neither under the Law nor outside the law of God. We are not under the Law of Moses, but we are not left to our own devices. This is not simply a question of everyone doing what is right in his own eyes. The next phrase gives us the answer to our question. We are not under the Law of Moses and we are not outside the law of God for we are “under the law of Christ.” Hear him again,

1 Corinthians 9:21 ESV To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

Paul will never change the Good News of the gospel. But he will become all things to all people, that by all means he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22). His heart’s desire and prayer for them was that they might be saved. Sounds like love to me. What do you think?

4.      The Law of Christ

Clearly then, the Christian is not under the Law of Moses because Christ has come. Christ is the end of the Law for everyone who believes. But now that Christ has come, we are under the law of Christ.

Paul uses the phrase “the law of Christ” one other time and that in his letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 6:2 ESV Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

It is important to note that Paul uses the word “law” 32 times in this letter to the Galatians. In fact, he gives a thorough thrashing to the Judaizers who want to make Jews out of Christians. They want to put these new believers under the Law of Moses. Paul will have none of it. What they are preaching is a distortion, a twisting of the gospel, Paul says in Galatians 1:7. Listen to some of what Paul says about the Law of Moses in this letter:

2:16 we know that a person is not justified by works of the law…

2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

2:21 … if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse…

3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law…

3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law…

5:4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

This is the very first letter of Paul. He mentions the word “law” 32 times. In the first four chapters, he has thoroughly rebuked the Judaizers who insisted on keeping the Law as a requirement for salvation. It is hardly surprising that sabbatarians avoid the epistles of the Apostle Paul. You cannot believe the New Testament and believe that the Sabbath is binding on Christians.

But now he warns about the opposite error: lawlessness, the idea that Christians are free to do whatever they want to do. Not so, Paul says.

Galatians 5:13 ESV …you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Love? What’s love got to do with it? Just yesterday I was in a store that was playing that song over the sound system. What’s love got to do with it?

Everything.

Galatians 5:13-14 ESV For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

What’s love got to do with it? Everything in the world since love fulfills the law.

Now Paul is no situation ethicist.[1] It is not a question of loving God and doing as you please. Not at all. He does not hesitate to list offenses that are completely incompatible with love for God and neighbor:

Galatians 5:19-21 NLT When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

We are not under the Law of Moses. Rather, we live by the Spirit of God:

Galatians 5:18 ESV But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Paul tells us just four verses later, that the fruit of the Spirit is love.

A few verses later in Galatians 6:2, he tells us,

Galatians 6:2 ESV Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

There it is! The law of Christ! Bearing one another’s burdens is an expression of the love of Christ. Again Galatians 5:14 tells us,

Galatians 5:14 ESV For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

One day a lawyer asked Jesus a question to test him:

Matthew 22:36-40 ESV “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

James, the half brother of Jesus, called the law of Christ the “royal law.”

James 2:8 ESV If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

Jesus did not say, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you keep the Sabbath.” This is what he said in

John 13:34-35 ESV A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is not a list of laws written on stone. This is a changed heart. Love comes from the heart. Jesus came to cleanse us from sin, to set us free from the power of sin, and to put his love in our hearts. We are not lawless. We are under the law of Christ, the law to love God with all our hearts and to love one another as Christ loved us.

What must you do to be saved? It’s not a question of going to church on a certain day of the week. What must you do? You must believe and receive Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life. Call out to him. Ask him to come into you. He will save you. Only trust him now.

See also “Seventh Day Adventism”:

Advertisements

It Happened on a Sunday!

Sunday

 

 

You’ll never guess what happened on Sunday. I think you’ll be surprised to discover some of the great events of the Bible that took place on Sunday, and just what God says about “the day after the Sabbath”!

1.      The SDA Challenge

1.1.     Are we wrong to worship God on Sunday?

Download recording

Download recording

Is there any warrant for worshiping God on Sunday? Recently the churches of Vanuatu have been challenged to find just one verse that supports the practice of worshipping on Sunday. Never mind the historical fact that for nearly 20 centuries the church of Jesus Christ has met on Sunday for teaching, preaching, prayer, worship, and fellowship… But is there any biblical support for the practice of worshipping on Sunday?

On the other hand, is this a major issue that could put one’s salvation in jeopardy? I mean, is it true that by meeting to worship God on Sunday, that instead of truly worshipping God in spirit and truth, we are somehow worshipping the sun, because it’s SUNday? Would that then mean that people who worship on SATURday are actually worshipping the planet Saturn? Is it true that worshipping God on Sunday is blasphemous? Is it true that this is the mark of the beast?

Wow! Those are some fantastic remarks made about the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Is God really upset that people would worship him on a Sunday? Is it true that our salvation is so fragile that it depends on worshipping on a certain day? Is salvation something that we do for ourselves by worshipping on a certain day of the week? Is salvation something that we do, or something that was done for us by Christ’s death on the cross?

Christians who know the Word of God will not be intimidated or shaken by these scare tactics. We know that the message of the gospel was not the preaching of the Sabbath but the preaching that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins and was literally, physically raised from the dead that we might be right with God through faith in his Son.

We have spent the last several weeks showing what the Scriptures teach about the Sabbath, the Law, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God.

We have seen that

  • the Law pointed to Christ who completely fulfilled the Law.
  • that the work of Christ on the cross is a complete and finished work.
  • that Christ is the end of the Law for everyone who believes.
  • that our salvation does not depend on keeping the Sabbath.
  • Rather, our salvation is secure in our Savior Jesus Christ.

1.2.     Just One Verse

One of the tactics used is to challenge listeners to find just one verse in the Bible that says that we are to worship on a Sunday. Money is often offered by such groups to anyone who can find a verse that speaks of worship on Sunday. When no one responds, everyone is convinced that it must be wrong to do right on Sunday. As we have seen, this sounds so very much like the Pharisees who found wrong in all the good works that Jesus did on the Sabbath. We are told that worship is a matter of observing the calendar, that what God real wants is for us to get the day right.

The Christian churches of Vanuatu could also ask our friends who have raised the question, “Please show us one verse in the New Testament that shows that believers have to keep the sabbath.” No gat. There is not one single verse in the New Testament that tells believers to keep the Sabbath.

Now, it is not my purpose to make enemies. I would like to help people to see the truth of God’s Word. I would even hope to help those leaders who have been deceived and who are now deceiving others. I hope that you can sense that my desire is not to divide but help those who through grace have believed the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for us (Acts 18:27-28).

We have seen that there are many commandments for New Testament believers. Jesus has clearly instructed us to make disciples of all peoples everywhere and to teach them to obey all that he has commanded us. But as we read through all the commandments of the New Testament, not once are we ever told to keep the Sabbath.

I should point out here that obeying God’s Word is not how we are saved. We are saved by what Christ has done for us, not by what we do for him. Obedience flows out of love and joy for what he has done for us.

So there are commands in the New Testament, but never a command to keep the Sabbath.

On the other hand, there are also many lists of various sins that the believer will avoid, but breaking the sabbath is never listed. In fact, we are told not to let anyone judge us about the Sabbath for it is only a shadow; the reality is Christ.

 

2.      Shadow and Reality

We have seen in previous broadcasts that the Old Covenant was a shadow of the New Covenant. I want to look more closely at some of the shadow because the shadow points to the reality.

In Leviticus 23, Moses gives a detail description of the appointed feasts of the LORD (Leviticus 23:2, 4).

  1. The Sabbath Lev 23:3
  2. The Feast of Passover Lev 23:5
  3. The Feat of Unleavened Bread Lev 23:6
  4. The Feast of Firstfruits Lev 23:10
  5. The Feast of Weeks Lev 23:15.
  6. The Feast of Trumpets Lev 23:24
  7. The Day of Atonement Lev 23:27
  8. The Feast of Booths Lev 23:34

I want to consider two of these feasts: the Feast of the Firstfruits, and the Feast of Weeks (also known as the Feast of Pentecost).

2.1.     The Feast of the Firstfruits

We read about the Feast of the Firstfruits in Leviticus 23:9-11.

Leviticus 23:9-11 ESV And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, 11 and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.

Let us well notice that the Feast of the Firstfruits was to take place on the day after the Sabbath. This feast took place right after the Feast of Passover, on the day after the Sabbath of the Passover.

Let me underline that it took place not on the Sabbath, but on the day after the Sabbath. Verse 11 says that the priest,

shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.

We all know that “the day after the Sabbath” was a Sunday. God prescribed that the Feast of the Firstfruits was to take place on a Sunday.

This offering of firstfruits took place at the beginning of the harvest and signified Israel’s gratitude to and dependence on God.[1]

We have a further description of this feast in Deuteronomy 26.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 ESV “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, 2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. 3 And you shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, ‘I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.’ 4 Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God. 5 “And you shall make response before the LORD your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. 6 And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. 7 Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8 And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. 9 And he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O LORD, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God. 11 And you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.

Notice exactly what God says the Israelites were to do on that Sunday after the Passover. Verse 10 says that they were to present the firstfruits of the ground which the LORD had given them. “And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God.” Here is a shadow of the reality that was to come. They were to worship the LORD on a Sunday.

The Feast of Passover had taken place just days before the Feast of the Firstfruits. The Passover commemorated the time when God had delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. For 400 years the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh. A Passover lamb had been slain for each family. The blood of the lamb had been painted on the doorposts of every home. The angel of death had been sent to kill the firstborn of every family in Egypt, but when the angel saw the blood of the lamb on the doorpost, he would “pass over” that home, sparing the firstborn child. That night the Israelites were delivered from Egypt (Exodus 12:1-13). All of this pointed to the Lamb of God who would be slain on a hill called Calvary in order to deliver us from Satan’s rule and the slavery of sin.

In celebration of this great deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites were to present the firstfruits of their crops and to worship the LORD, the first day after the Sabbath of Passover. It happened on a Sunday.

  • Every year
    For 1,446 years
  • From the giving of the Law
    Until the coming of Christ
    And until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
  • The Jews were commanded to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits and to worship the LORD
  • The day after the Sabbath of the Passover.

It happened on a Sunday, “the day after the Sabbath.”

It happened on a Sunday and pointed to that great event that the New Testament tells many times took place on “the first day of the week”: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This was the Feast of the Firstfruits and it pointed to Christ, the firstfruits of the resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15:23 ESV But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Romans 8:23 ESV And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

So Christ is the firstfruits of the our future resurrection. The firstfruits came first; the full harvest came weeks later. Christ’s resurrection was first; our resurrection is still future, but both Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection are part of what the Bible calls “the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5-6). The Feast of the Firstfruits took place “the day after the Sabbath.” It happened on a Sunday. The Feast of the Firstfruits pointed to the resurrection of Christ that would take place on Sunday, “the first day of the week.”

Just how important is the resurrection of Christ? The Scriptures tell us that if Christ had not been raised from the dead, then our preaching would be in vain, and your faith would be in vain. We would still be lost in and would perish (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).

Again and again, the New Testament emphasizes that this most important event took place on Sunday, after the Sabbath, on “the first day of the week”:

Matthew 28:1 ESV Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

Mark 16:2 ESV And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

Mark 16:9 ESV [Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.

Luke 24:1 ESV But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.

John 20:1 ESV Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

All these events of the resurrection day took place on Sunday, the first day of the week.

John 20:19 ESV On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

  • It was on a Sunday that the Lord arose from the grave (Mark 16:9).
  • It was on a Sunday that He appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:1).
  • It was on a Sunday that He walked and talked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31).
  • It was on a Sunday “when he was at table with them, [that] he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them (Luke 24:30 ESV).
  • It was on a Sunday that the ten apostles and others had gathered in the upper room (John 20:19).
  • It was on a Sunday that the resurrected Christ appeared to them in the upper room (John 20:19).
  • It was on a Sunday that He gave the great commission “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21 ESV).
  • It was on a Sunday that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22 ESV).

It happened on a Sunday.

It happened on a Sunday, but Thomas was not there. It was a eight days later — count them: 1 – Sunday, 2 – Monday, 3 – Tuesday, 4 – Wednesday, 5 – Thursday, 6 – Friday, 7 – Saturday, 8 – Sunday — It was on a Sunday that Jesus chose to appear again to his disciples, this time Thomas was with them:

John 20:26 ESV Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

It happened on a Sunday. And it had been prefigured in the Feast of the Firstfruits. God had specified that Feast of the Firstfruits was to take place on “the day after the Sabbath” of Passover. God had commanded that the Feast of the Firstfruits would take place on a Sunday and that the Israelites were to worship God and thank Him for delivering them from slavery in Egypt. God had said that it was to take place the day after the Sabbath because he was going to raise his Son from the dead on the first day of the week, not the last day of the week. It would be a new beginning. A new creation. And it happened on a Sunday.

2.2.     The Feast of Pentecost

Back in Leviticus 23, immediately after the instructions about the Feast of the Firstfruits, God gave instructions about another shadow, the Feast of Weeks, that would point to another reality. The Feast of the Firstfruits took place on a Sunday at the very beginning of the harvest. That Sunday was the starting point for the count to the Feast of Weeks.

Leviticus 23:15-16 ESV “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.

Two times in these two verses, the phrase “the day after the Sabbath” is used. In verse 15, “the day after the Sabbath” refers to the Sunday when the Feast of the Firstfruits took place. The Israelites were to count seven full weeks from the Feast of the Firstfruits from that Sunday to the “day after the seventh Sabbath.” Seven full weeks were counted to the Feast of Weeks. Verse 16 says, “You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath.” The Feast of Weeks was fifty days after the Feast of the Firstfruits. The Greek translation of this Old Testament verse uses the word πεντήκοντα (pentêkonta, Leviticus 23:16 BGT). That is where we get the word “Pentecost.” The Feast of Weeks was the Feast of Pentecost. It was a time of great celebration as the harvest was brought in.

Deuteronomy 16:10-11 ESV Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 11 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God…

They were to rejoice before the Lord. It happened on a Sunday, “the day after the seventh Sabbath.”

  • Every year
    For 1,446 years
  • From the giving of the Law
    Until the coming of Christ
    And until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
  • The Jews were commanded to rejoice before the LORD on Sunday, the Day of Pentecost,
  • The day after the 7th Sabbath after the Feast of Firstfruits.

It happened on a Sunday, “the day after the 7th Sabbath” for nearly 1,500 years.

The Feast of the Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks. The Feast of the Firstfruits pointed to the resurrection of Christ on a Sunday, “the first day of the week.” Then, from Resurrection Day, seven full weeks were counted. Fifty days until “the day after the seventh Sabbath.” A Sunday. The Day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:1-4 ESV When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

It happened on a Sunday.

  • It was on a Sunday that “there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind.”
  • It was on a Sunday that “divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.”
  • It was on a Sunday that 120 disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
  • It was on a Sunday that they “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
  • It was on a Sunday that a great multitude of devout Jews from “every nation under heaven” heard the disciples telling in their own languages “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:5, 11).
  • It was on a Sunday that the Apostle Peter preached to the Jews at Jerusalem that God had raised Jesus up from the dead and exalted him to the right hand of the Father and that he, Jesus, had pour out the Holy Spirit on the disciples, on a Sunday (Acts 2:33).
  • It was on a Sunday that Peter gave the invitation to those who heard him, telling them to repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38).
  • It was on a Sunday that 3,000 people received Christ, were baptized in water and were added to the church (Acts 2:41).

It was the beginning of the Church. It was the Feast of Pentecost, a harvest celebration, and what a harvest of souls it was!

It happened on a Sunday.

 

3.      Sunday and the Early Church

It was for this reason that with time and the more the church spread beyond Jerusalem that Christians began meeting on Resurrection Day. Sunday.

3.1.     The Church in Troas

In Acts 20, on Paul’s third missionary journey, we read that the Christians in Troas met on the first day of the week.

Acts 20:6-7 ESV …we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days. 7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

Though Paul was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem (Acts 20:16), Paul and Luke waited in Troas for six days until the first day of the week when the believers met. They met. They broke bread together, meaning that they celebrated the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion together. And Paul preached to them.

And it happened on a Sunday.

 

3.2.     The Church in Corinth

We read in 1 Corinthians 16, that the church at Corinth met the first day of the week.

1 Corinthians 16:2 ESV On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

The churches took special offerings every Sunday for the church in Jerusalem.

OBJECTION: Some think that Paul was telling the believers to simply be systematic and put an offering aside every week in the privacy of their own homes.

ANSWER: IF THAT WERE THE CASE…

  1. It would not matter what day of the week they collected it. Paul specifically tells them to put aside their offerings and to store them up “the first day of every week.”
  2. If the families were simply putting aside an offering in their homes, there would still have been a need to collect it when Paul came. But he had specifically instructed them to collect the offerings “so that there will be no collecting when I come”

3.3.     The Churches of Galatia

Paul founded the churches of Galatia during his first missionary journey. These churches were in the cities of Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra. These churches also met on the first day of the week. Note again what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 ESV Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

So Paul had instructed the churches of Galatia to set aside an offering on the first day of every week.

 

3.4.     The Lord’s Day

God had ordained that the Feast of the Firstfruits and the Feast of Pentecost take place on “the day after the Sabbath,” i.e. on a Sunday. Those feasts pointed to the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which took place on a Sunday. Instead of meeting to worship on the Sabbath, the churches began meeting on the day of the Lord’s resurrection. The day of the Lord’s resurrection soon became known as the Lord’s Day. We read in Revelation 1:10,

Revelation 1:10 ESV I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…

The Apostle John was worshipping the Lord. He was in the Spirit on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day. The Lord Jesus met him and revealed himself to John, and revealed to him The Book of Revelation.

It happened on a Sunday.

 

4.      The Testimony of the Early Church Fathers

The early Church Fathers, those first Christians who left us their testimony of life in the early church, confirm that the church met on the Lord’s Day and not the Sabbath.

4.1      Ignatius of Antioch lived during most of the first century and into the second century.

He was a student of the Apostle John. Ignatius describes Christian believers as those who…

have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death–whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master…[2]

He goes on to say,

let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week].[3]

4.2      Justin Martyr lived from A.D. 110 to 165. This is what he says about Sunday:

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.[4]

The FIRST DAY of the week was the day set apart for special worship by the saints of God, LONG BEFORE CONSTANTINE WAS BORN, OR THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS KNOWN.[5]

 

Conclusion

What shall we say then to these things? Is Sunday the Christian Sabbath? No, it is not. Nor is Saturday.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 2:16 not to let anyone trouble you or pass judgment on you concerning the Sabbath. It was only a shadow. Christ is the reality.

Will keeping the Sabbath save you? No. Neither will going to church on Sunday. Someone said that if a mouse lives in a cookie jar (biscuit jar), it won’t make him a cookie. Going to church on a Sunday will not make you a Christian. It will not save you. Nor will going to church on the Sabbath. That is not the gospel. It is not the teaching of the New Testament. It is a different gospel that is not the gospel at all.

Christ alone can save you. Do not put your trust in anything you can do. Put your trust in what Christ has done. He died on the cross to take the punishment for your sins and to set you free from the power of sin. Do not reject him who calls you to put your trust in him alone.

[1] Duane A. Garrett, “Feasts and Festivals of Israel” in Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, p. 250.

[2] Epistle Of Ignatius To The Magnesians, “Chapter IX.–Let us live with Christ.”

[3] Ibid.

[4] Justin Martyr, First Apologia – “Chapter LXVII.—Weekly worship of the Christians.”

[5] Maurice Nicholson, “Disproving Seventh-day Adventism.”

See also “Seventh Day Adventism”:

Law and Sabbath, the Old and the New

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt (1659) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Microphone

Download Recording

Good morning, friends. This week a listener texted me this question:

Wenam nao ceremonial sabbath o law and wenam difference blong hem n how nao e finish hem?

So what is the difference between the ceremonial sabbath and the law, and how can we say that it is finished?

I appreciate the good question. What are we to make of the Law and of the Sabbath in particular?

1. The Law

1.1. The Importance of the Law

First we need to affirm the importance of the Law in biblical theology.

The Law was good.

Romans 7:12 ESV So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

1 Timothy 1:8 ESV Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

It reveals sin:

Romans 3:20 ESV For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Romans 7:7 ESV ¶ What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

The Law was a guardian:

Galatians 3:24 ESV So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

Most importantly, the Law prophesied the coming of Christ; it pointed to Christ as its fulfillment.

Luke 24:44 ESV ¶ Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

1.2. Four Approaches

Dispensationalism holds that nothing in the Old Testament law applies to the Christian life unless the New Testament repeats it and endorses it. For example, the New Testament says nothing about wearing clothes woven of two kinds of material (Leviticus 19:19), so we feel free to wear shirts made of polyester and cotton, though that would have been forbidden under the Old Testament.

On the other hand, the New Testament says nothing about consulting mediums or spiritists (Leviticus 19:31), yet surely this is inconsistent with the life in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

Secondly, Covenant Theology takes the opposite approach: everything from the Old Testament carries over into the New Testament unless it is forbidden. So the Old Testament would rule out consulting mediums. But what about clothes made of two kinds of material? Most of us have violated that Old Testament commandment!

Third, one common approach has been to distinguish between Old Testament ceremonial laws, civil laws, and moral laws. We first find this approach in Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century Catholic theologian. Ceremonial laws would have to do with the temple and the system of sacrifice that is no longer in existence. Civil laws would deal with everyday life in ancient Israel. Moral law would deal with theft, lying, hatred, slander, etc.

But many laws do not seem to fall into these categories and frequently there is no attempt to group them in categories. Where, for example, do we put the Leviticus 19:27?

Leviticus 19:27 ESV You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.

Is it moral, civil, or ceremonial? And that command is sandwiched between commands to not eat flesh with the blood in it, to interpret omens or tell fortunes or to tattoo yourselves. And if the Lord God has given all of these 613 commands of the Old Testament, isn’t our obedience to them somehow a moral issue and not just a civil or ceremonial one?

A fourth approach is to privilege the “Big Ten,” the Ten Commandments. Yet, in no place in the New Testament are all of the Ten Commandments dealt with together. In fact, there is one of the Ten Commandments that is never repeated as a commandment in the New Testament.

# COMMANDMENT TIMES
1 We are to worship God alone. 53
2 We are not to have any idols. 12
3 We are not to take the name of the Lord in vain. 4
5 We are to honor our parents. 6
6 We must not murder. 7
7 We must not commit adultery. 12
8 We must not steal. 6
9 We must not lie or bear false witness. 4
10 We must not covet. 9

Guess which Old Testament commandment is never repeated in the New Testament: the fourth commandment to keep the Sabbath is never repeated in the New Testament. Each time the Sabbath commandment is mentioned, it is diminished, made smaller and shown not to be binding on New Covenant Christians.

Lists of sin in the New Testament:

Mark 7:21-22 ESV For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. Romans 1:29-31 ESV They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV ¶ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 2 Timothy 3:2-5 ESV For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Guess what is never mentioned: not keeping the Sabbath.

2. The Sabbath

2.1. Jesus, the Pharisees, and the Sabbath

In the last several broadcasts, we have considered what the Bible says about the Sabbath, the Law, and the kingdom of God.

We noted first that Jesus and the Pharisees were always on opposite sides of the conflict over the Law. The Pharisees insisted on outward observance of the Law but ignored the intention and purpose of the Law. The Pharisees were concerned with appearances. They wanted everything to look just right on the outside, but they gave no attention to the inside. Jesus said that they were like people who washed the outside of the cup but never worried about cleaning the inside. He said that they were like the tombs of the dead: beautifully painted and kept up on the outside, but inside they were full of corruption and dead man’s bones (Matthew 23:25, 27). Those are strong words that Jesus had for these keepers of the Law.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed many of these questions. The Law had said, “You must not murder.” So the Pharisees figured that as long as they didn’t knife someone, they had kept the commandment. Jesus say that if you hate someone, you have already committed murder in your heart. If you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment. If you insult someone, you are in danger. If you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. Murder is a matter of the heart.

The Law had said, “You must not commit adultery,” so the Pharisees figured that it was enough to avoid climbing into bed with someone. Jesus said that if you desire someone sexually, you’ve already committed adultery. Adultery is a matter of the heart.

The Sadducees and the Pharisees continually put the accent on the external conformity to the Law:

  • No murder, but it’s okay to hate, insult, and curse someone.
  • No adultery, but it doesn’t hurt to look.
  • Tired of your wife? Give her a piece of paper so you can marry the woman you want.
  • If you made a vow, you’ll have to honor it. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what you said.
  • Someone hurt you? Hurt them back.
  • Got an enemy? It’s okay to hate. Just love those who love you.

And where did they put all their emphasis? The put it on keeping the sabbath.

Jesus’ greatest enemies were strict sabbatarians. They were constantly on Jesus about the Sabbath.

  • When he healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath day, the Pharisees persecuted him (John 5:16; 7:21-24).
  • When he healed the man blind from birth on the Sabbath, they declared that he was a sinner and could not be from God (John 9:16, 24).
  • When Jesus healed on the Sabbath a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit, the synagogue leader was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day (Luke 13:10-18).
  • When the disciples of Jesus picked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees criticized Jesus and his disciples (Matthew 12:1-8).
  • When Jesus healed the man with a deformed hand on the Sabbath, the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus (Matthew 12:9-14).

The Sadducees and the Pharisees put all the emphasis on the Sabbath. They could judge whether a man was a sinner or a saint by the Sabbath. If someone went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, they judged that he was right with God. But…

  • If a man was carrying his mat on the Sabbath, they judged that he was a sinner.
  • If a man picked grain on the Sabbath, they judged that he was a sinner.
  • If Jesus did some good work on the Sabbath, they judged that he was sinner.

The Pharisees looked on the outside, but their hearts were full of judgment, full of condemnation, and full of sin.

2.2. The Institution of the Sabbath

For the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the main thing was the seventh day, the Sabbath. We saw that for the first 2,500 years, from Adam to Moses, there was no Sabbath. Not one person was ever mentioned keeping the Sabbath before Exodus 16. In fact, the Sabbath is not mentioned one time in the 50 chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. It is not mentioned until Exodus 16. That was 2,500 years after God created the heavens and the earth. There was no Sabbath for Adam, or Noah, or Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, or Joseph. There was no Sabbath for the Israelites during their 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Day after day after day, the Israelites made bricks for Pharaoh, with no Sabbath.

When God brought them out of Egypt, for the first time God said to them in Exodus 16,

Exodus 16:29-30 ESV See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

It is here in Exodus 16:23 that the Sabbath is mentioned for the very first time in the Bible. It would be not be a work day; it would be a day of rest.

2.3. The Sign of the Sabbath

So there was no Sabbath before God delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. Only after the Exodus from Egypt did God give the Israelites the Sabbath. Again and again, God tells the Israelites that on the Sabbath, they are to do no work. This fourth of the Ten Commandments says,

Exodus 20:8-10 ESV ¶ “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work

No work. That was the outward sign. No work. But what was the meaning of the Sabbath? What did it mean to do no work? What was the significance… the signification of the Sabbath? What was the message of the Sabbath?

God is clear about the meaning of the Sabbath. In Exodus 31:13, the LORD tells Moses,

Exodus 31:13 ESV “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

No work! The message is that sanctification is not our work but the Lord’s work! The message is that we cannot make ourselves holy by work. It is the Lord who makes us holy:

Exodus 31:13 ESV “…this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

If you think that you can make yourself holy and acceptable to God by going to church on the Sabbath, you have missed the point, the message of the Sabbath. If you think that the Sabbath is a work that you do to get right with God, you have perverted the meaning of the Sabbath. God says that doing no work was a sign that it is the LORD who sanctifies us.

This passage also clearly shows that the covenant of the Law was with the people of Israel, not with us Gentiles:

Exodus 31:13 ESV “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

Exodus 31:17 ESV It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'”

Let us note, in passing, that there is no place in the Bible where the Lord said, “On the Sabbath day, you are to go to the tabernacle or to the temple and worship me.” The Sabbath requirement was a requirement of rest, not worship. The Sabbath was not a call to worship. It was a call to rest. Not work. God does the work of making us holy.

This same message is given nearly a thousand years later by the prophet Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 20:12 ESV Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

The message of the Sabbath is the same as we find in Ephesians 2,

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Our hope is in Christ alone:

MUSIC: 02 Kristyn Getty, In Christ Alone. 4:39 • 22 sec lead-in • Fade after 4:15

3. The Old and the New

Next we looked at the old and the new covenants. God made a covenant with the nation of Israel, but the Bible tells us that the covenant of the Law was a parenthesis in the plan of God. The Law was a covenant that had a beginning and an end. It began with Moses and it ended with the cross. The Law was neither the beginning nor the end of God’s plan. Four hundred thirty years before the Law, God had made a promise that would not be broken. God had promised Abraham that his many times great grandson would be the source of blessing for all the peoples everywhere. The Apostle Paul explains that promise in Galatians 3. This is how the New Living Translation renders Galatians 3:15-19,

Galatians 3:15-20 NLT ¶ Dear brothers and sisters, here’s an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case. 16 God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn’t say “to his children,” as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says “to his child”– and that, of course, means Christ. 17 This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise. 18 For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise. 19 ¶ Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. 20 Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham.

In other words, the promise to Abraham was given directly from God to Abraham and has precedence over the Law which was mediated through angels. Paul continues in verse 23,

Galatians 3:23-25 NLT Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

This is the same message that we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews. We saw in Hebrew 8:8-12 that Jeremiah the prophet, though he was a prophet of the old covenant of the Law… Jeremiah prophesied 600 years before the coming of Christ that God would establish a New Covenant. The New Covenant would not be like the old covenant of the Law (v. 9). It would not be a matter of external rules written on stone tablets. In the New Covenant God would write his laws on our hearts. Ezekiel tells us that God would cleanse us from everything that is unclean and He would put His Spirit in us. The temple is no longer a building in Jerusalem; in the New Covenant, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. So the writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jeremiah, “In speaking of the new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete…” It is finished. The end.

In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul tells us that God has made Jews and Gentiles one new people, breaking down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility:

Ephesians 2:15 NLT He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.

That is exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18. He said that the Law and the Prophets would not pass away until all was fulfilled. And he said that he had come to fulfill it. So on the cross, he declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). He died. He was buried. And on the third day, the first day of the week, Christ was raised from the dead. After appearing to several that morning of the resurrection, Christ joined two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Luke 24:27 NLT Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus showed them that the Law and the Prophets pointed to Christ. The purpose of the Law was to point us to Christ. Once Christ has come, the purpose of the Law was achieved.

That evening Christ appeared in the upper room to the disciples

Luke 24:44 ESV ¶ Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

The Law was not the real deal. The Law was temporary. The Law’s purpose was to point to Christ. The resurrected Christ appeared to the disciples the night of the resurrection and told them that the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms all pointed to him. He was the fulfillment of the Scriptures.

Matthew 11:13 ESV For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,

Luke 16:16 ESV ¶ “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached…

A listener to this radio ministry asked, “How can we say that the Law is finished?” The Law is not simply finished; it is fulfilled. Christ fulfilled it. In every detail Christ fulfilled what the Law had prophesied. The Law was only a copy and a shadow of heavenly realities; Christ is that reality. Not the Law, but Christ is the real deal.

We can only say that the Law is fulfilled because God himself said it. Christ said that the Law prophesied until John the Baptist. The new message was not the Law, but the kingdom of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The good news of the gospel is that we are not under the Law.

John 1:17 ESV For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:14 ESV For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 8:14 ESV For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Galatians 5:18 ESV But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

3.1. So what about Christian freedom?

If we are no longer under the Law, does that mean that we are free to do anything that we want to do?

Christian freedom is a reality, and so is righteousness. There is a strong accent on freedom in the New Testament, and it is a freedom from the reign and rule of sin. In fact, the freedom from the rule of sin is tied to our freedom from the Law.

Romans 6:14 ESV For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Here in this verse we see that sin will not dominate our lives not because we are under the law, but because we are not under the law. How does that work? Why should freedom from the law enable us to be free from the domination of sin?

Freedom from the law is only part of the equation, but it is an important part. The law actually provokes the sinful nature that we inherited from Adam. The law says, “You shall not…” and we respond, “Oh yes I shall!” This is how the Apostle Paul says it in Romans 7:

Romans 7:7-11 NLT ¶ Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” 8 But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. 9 At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, 10 and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. 11 Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me.

That is why the Apostle Paul says in

Romans 3:20 NLT For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

The Law provokes sin in us. And when we think that we are successfully living by the Law, it provokes sinful pride and condemnation of others. We become like the Pharisees, full of sinful self-righteousness and scorn for others.

Galatians 3:2-5 NLT Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? 5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.

The Law is useful to show us how sinful we are, but it is powerless to save. The Law may change some of your outward behavior, but it cannot change your heart. For a heart change, you need the New Covenant. You need the promised Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the power of the kingdom of God and the power of the New Covenant.

Romans 8:1-4 NLT ¶ So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

So we are free from the Law. We are not under the Law. If we are in Christ, we are led by the Spirit of Christ.

Galatians 5:1 NLT ¶ So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Galatians 5:4 NLT For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

Galatians 5:9-10 NLT This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! 10 I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.

3.2. What about the Commandments?

The Bible is very clear. We are not under the Law. We are not under the old covenant. Yet we are not to use our freedom as an excuse to sin. Notice the next verse in Galatians:

Galatians 5:13 NLT ¶ For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

Paul goes on to talk about the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit is something that is produced by mature fruit trees. You can recognize a tree by its fruit. If the Spirit of God lives in you, He will produce His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, self-control.

This is what the gospel produces in your life. That is something that the Law could never do.

Romans 8:3-4 NLT The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

There are commandments for the children of God, but that will have to wait for another broadcast.

Scripture Union of Vanuatu has a wonderful booklet in Bislama called “Sarede o Sande? — Sabat Dei o Dei blong Masta?” It is only 20vt at the Scripture Union near Caillard et Kaddour Real Estate offices. Please stop by their offices and pick up a copy. It will help you.

Let me encourage you to find a Bible-believing church where the Word of God is preached, taught, and lived, and where the Bible and only the Bible — not someone’s vision or some other book — but the Bible and the Bible alone is the one and only final authority for what we believe and what we do. There is no other foundation than the Word of God.

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.

See also “Seventh Day Adventism“:

The King Has Come!

English: Folio 4, beginning of the Gospel of M...

English: Folio 4, beginning of the Gospel of Matthew (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good morning, friends. Did you see this weekend’s edition of the Independent? On the front page, we learn that Princess Anne will visit Vanuatu next month. That’s right, her royal highness Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth is coming for a visit.It is always a special event when any member of the Royal Family visits another country. But I’ve got even bigger news: the King is coming! The King? Yes, THE King! I’ve got the inside scoop.

The King Has Come!

Microphone

Download Recording

When we finish reading the Old Testament and turn to the first pages of the New Testament, it is clear that something is up. The emphasis of the New Testament is not on the law. Rather it is on fulfillment and the kingdom of God. There is an emphasis on a new beginning. The Gospel according to Mark opens with these words:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1 ESV).

Luke speaks of those “who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2).

Matthew begins his Gospel with the simple words, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The genealogy of Christ is traced back to King David who mentioned six times in the first chapter of Matthew. This way Matthew points to Jesus Christ as the one who is the fulfillment of Old Testament aspirations and hopes. He shows that Jesus is the son of David — the many times great grandson of King David who would reign forever.

In Matthew 2, the emphasis on Christ as King continues. Wise men from the east came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (2:1-2).

Matthew 3 opens with the message of John the Baptist: you must prepare the way for the King: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (3:2).

In Matthew 4, King Jesus arrives and preaches the gospel of the kingdom. John the Baptist is arrested.

Matthew 4:17 ESV From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:23 ESV And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

The Sermon on the Mount

When we arrive in Matthew 5, we find the first recorded sermon of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount.

He begins with the “Beatitudes”, a description of those who are blessed. Eight beatitudes beginning and ending with the promise of the kingdom:

Matthew 5:3-10 NLT “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Where is the law in all that? In these Beatitudes, Jesus has focused on the blessings of the Kingdom. He has promised the Kingdom to those whose hearts are pure toward God. To this point in the Gospel of Matthew, the law has not been mentioned one time. Is it possible to be blessed by God without the law? Look at the experience of some of the Old Testament saints:

  • Enoch walked with God 1,500 years before God gave the law (Genesis 5:22).
  • Noah found favor with God 1,000 years before the law was given (Genesis 6:8).
  • Abraham was a friend of God 430 years before the law was given (Genesis 12; James 2:23).

These men were blessed of God. Abraham simply believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.

Jesus does not mention the law in these beatitudes. He talks about the kind of people that God blesses: humble, hungry, meek, mournful, merciful, pure, peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness. He then talks about rejoicing, about a great reward in heaven, about being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, but he has not mentioned the law.

It is only then in verse 17 that he brings up the law:

Matthew 5:17 ESV “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Why did he say that? Did some think that he had come to abolish the Law and the Prophets? He astonished the people by speaking as one having authority. He would say things like, “You have heard it said, but I say to you.” It seems that some were wondering if he had come to abolish the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 5:17 NLT “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.

Let us just note in passing that Jesus did come on a mission. He came from heaven and he came with a specific purpose, but he tells us here that he has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: “I have not come,” he says, “to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Notice what Jesus did not say. Jesus did not say, “I have not come to abolish them, but to preserve them unchanged.” Jesus used a word that means that he came to show the true or complete meaning of the law. He did not come to destroy the law. He did not come to preserve the law. He came to fulfill its purpose.

The Theme of Fulfillment

This theme of fulfillment is seen from the opening of the New Testament.

  1. In Matthew 1, the first chapter of the New Testament, we read that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary to fulfill what Isaiah the prophet had prophesied 700 before (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23).
  2. In Matthew 2, we read that he was born in Bethlehem to fulfill the prophecy of Micah, again 700 years before Christ (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:5-6).
  3. Joseph and Mary took baby Jesus to Egypt that the prophecy of Hosea eight centuries before Christ (cf. Hosea 2:15; 11:1; Matthew 2:15).
  4. King Herod’s slaughter of all the male children of Bethlehem under two years of age fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy 600 years before Christ (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:17).
  5. Joseph and Mary settled in Nazareth fulfilling the prophecies that Christ would be called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23).

Matthew shows us five times in his first two chapters show that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. This theme continues through Matthew and much of the rest of the New Testament.

In Matthew chapter 3, we see John the Baptist fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi that he would be the forerunner announcing the coming of Christ (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6). That by the way is something that no other religious leader ever had. No other religious leader ever had a forerunner. 700 years before Christ came, it was prophesied that Christ would have a forerunner, and that forerunner pointed to Christ and said, “It’s not me, but him that you must listen to! He’s the one!”

  • Muhammed had no forerunner.
  • Joseph Smith had no forerunner.
  • Ellen G. White had no forerunner.

No prophet of God every prophesied that they would come. No one came before them saying, “Someone is coming after me who will show you the way to God.” These so-called prophets were not announced beforehand. They proclaimed themselves as prophets. None of them had a John the Baptist. None of them were prophesied in the Scriptures. John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi when he preached that one was coming after him and then by pointing to Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

Again Jesus fulfilled prophecy in moving to Capernaum (Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 4:13-16).

But in all these references, there is not yet any reference to the law. So we have to ask ourselves what role the law played in the New Testament.

Until

Jesus said that he had come to fulfill the purpose of the law. Then Jesus said something even more astounding in the next verse:

Matthew 5:18 ESV For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

The word “until” implies that heaven and earth will pass away: “until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear…” (NLT). Jesus tells us that heaven and earth will pass away. The prophet Isaiah had prophesied that there would be a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). The Apostle Peter tells us that the heavens will melt with a fervent heat and there will be new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:14-16). The Apostle John also writes of a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1).

Jesus says in…

Matthew 24:35 ESV Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

So Jesus is telling us that fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets is more certain than the universe itself. But notice how he says this in the NIV. Jesus uses the adverb “until” two times:

Matthew 5:18 NIVO I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
New English Translation: “until everything takes place.”
MacDonald Idiomatic Translation: “until every aspect is fulfilled.”
New Living Translation: “until its purpose is achieved.”

Jesus implies that heaven and earth will pass away, but that nothing will pass away from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Again, the word “until”, used twice, implies that heaven and earth will pass away, and that once the Law’s purpose is achieved, the law will pass away.

Matthew 5:18 NLT …not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.

Now the big question is, “When will the Law’s purpose be achieved?” Jesus already told us in the previous verse:

Matthew 5:17 NLT “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.

Now let’s read verses 17 and 18 together in the New Living Translation:

Matthew 5:17-18 NLT “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.

Very simply, Jesus implies that three things will happen:

  1. Everything in the Law will be accomplished.
  2. The Law will pass away.
  3. Heaven and earth will pass away.

What does Jesus mean? He means that the purpose of the Law was to point to him. He came and fulfilled in every detail the Law. The law would not pass away until its purpose was achieved. The purpose of the Law has thus been achieved in Christ.

The Purpose of the Law and the Prophets Was to Point to Christ

On the day of His resurrection, Christ joined two disciples who were walking to Emmaus.

Luke 24:27 NLT Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:32 NLT They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”

Later that day, he appeared to the other disciples in the upper room and said,

Luke 24:44-45 NLT “…When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms were all fulfilled in Christ.

Jesus and the Law

The question is not so much the relation of Jesus to the law, but the relation of the law to Jesus. In other words, from a biblical prospective, the main thing is not the law, but Jesus Christ.

That helps us to understand why the first reference to law in the New Testament is not found until Matthew 5:17, not until the fifth chapter of Matthew, and we will see that the first time that the law is mentioned in the New Testament, we learn that it will soon pass away.

Instead of putting the emphasis on the law, the writers of the New Testament put the emphasis on Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, and on the gospel of the kingdom.

MUSIC: HEAR THE CALL OF THE KINGDOM (3:55)

The Message of Jesus

So let’s look at the preaching of John the Baptist and of Jesus. We might think that the message of the New Testament would be the same as that of the Old Testament. But instead preaching the law, the message of the New Testament is the gospel. As we have seen, Mark begins his gospel with these words:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1 ESV).

He does not entitle his book “The beginning of the law of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” but “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

In fact, the word “law” is never mentioned in Mark’s gospel.

If they did not preach the law, what did John the Baptist and Jesus preach?

They preached the kingdom of God.

Matthew 3:1-2 NLT In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2 “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Mark 1:14-15 NLT Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

Jesus sent out the twelve telling them, “proclaim as you go, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7).

In Matthew 13, Jesus told parables of the kingdom:

  • The kingdom is like a man who sowed good seed…
  • The kingdom is like a grain of mustard seed…
  • The kingdom is like leaven that a woman took and hid…
  • The kingdom is like treasure hidden in a field…
  • The kingdom is like a merchant in search of fine pearls…
  • The kingdom is like a net that was thrown into the sea…

The Good News of the Kingdom of God was the message preached by John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the apostles.

Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom.

After the resurrection and ascension of Christ, the believers preached the kingdom of God.

  • In Acts 8, Philip preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12).
  • In Acts 19 and 20, Paul proclaimed the kingdom of God (Acts 19:8; 20:25).
  • In fact, the last chapter and verse of the Book of Acts tells us that Paul continued to proclaim the kingdom of God and teach about the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:23, 31).

You will not find the apostles preaching the law. They did not preach Sabbath-keeping. They preached Christ and him crucified. They preached the good news of the kingdom of God.

The Law Prophesied Until John

Matthew 11:12-13 ESV From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,

Notice that Matthew 11:13 says that the Law prophesied. This tells us that the purpose of the Law was prophetic. The Law pointed beyond itself. The Law pointed to Christ who would fulfill the Law in every detail: “…all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.”

The Law began with Moses , but with the coming of John the Baptist, there was a transition. Jesus said in Matthew 11:13, “..the Law prophesied until John.” Again in Luke 16:16, we read,

Luke 16:16 ESV “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.

Notice the contrast here between the Law and the good news of the kingdom of God: “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached…”

The power of the kingdom of God is the promised Holy Spirit!

Matthew 12:22-29 ESV Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

The message of the New Testament is not the law but the power of Spirit of God.

Matthew 12:28 ESV But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

This was the message of the New Testament church: Christ was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached,

Acts 3:18 NLT But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah– that he must suffer these things.

During his first missionary journey, Paul preached Christ as the fulfillment of the prophets:

Acts 13:27 NLT The people in Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize Jesus as the one the prophets had spoken about. Instead, they condemned him, and in doing this they fulfilled the prophets’ words that are read every Sabbath.

Confusion over the Law

Paul writes to the Galatian churches that he had established on his first missionary journey.

Galatians 1:6-7 ESV I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

Galatians 2:16 ESV yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Galatians 2:19-21 ESV For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Galatians

PARENTHESIS OF THE LAW

CHRIST THE PROMISE

3:19

It was added because of transgressions,

until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made

3:23

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned

until the coming faith would be revealed.

3:24

So then, the law was our guardian until

Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

3:25

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,

4:1-2

A child, no different from a slave, is under guardians and managers

until the date set by his father.

4:3-5

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Matthew 24:14 ESV And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Jesus did not say that the Sabbath would be preached throughout the whole world. He said that the Good News of the Kingdom of God would be preached.

In Romans 7, Paul shows that when we died with Christ on the cross, we died to the Law and were freed from the Law so that we might belong to Christ.

Romans 7:1 ESV Or do you not know, brothers– for I am speaking to those who know the law– that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?

Romans 7:4 ESV Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Romans 7:6 ESV But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

He explains in Romans 8, that the Law was unable to accomplish the purpose of God in our lives because of our sinful nature. But God has done what the Law could not do by sending His Son to break the power of sin in us and by giving us His Spirit:

Romans 8:2-4 ESV For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

The message that we preach is Christ and the Kingdom of God. The Law pointed to Christ. Its function was temporary. Now that Christ has come, we are free from the Law that we might walk in the newness of the Spirit of God.

See also “Seventh Day Adventism”:

The Old and the New: Two Testaments, Two Covenants

1. The Old and the New: Two Testaments, Two Covenants

Microphone

Download Recording

powerpoint icon

Download Powerpoint

When we open the Bible, one of the first things that we notice is that the Bible is divided into two sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Within the Old and New Testaments, there are covenants, special agreements ratified by sacrifice and sign. There are covenants between individuals such as Abraham and Abimelech (Genesis 21:27). More importantly, there are covenants between God and man.

For example, God made a covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy the earth by Flood. He put the rainbow in the sky as a sign of the covenant.

Genesis 9:14-15 ESV When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

God made a covenant with Abraham that the childless old man would yet become the father of a multitude of nations, that kings would come from him and that God would give them the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:18; 17:1-21).

Besides these covenants, God made a covenant with the nation of Israel:

Exodus 34:27-28 ESV And the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

Though Israel would break the covenant, God would not forget His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Though He would judge Israel and drive them into other nations, God says in Leviticus 26,

Leviticus 26:42 ESV then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

Leviticus 26:45 ESV But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.”

When God makes a covenant with man, it is a gracious act on his part. It is not a negotiated contract whereby we haggle and try to get God to do something that we want. God is God and he does whatever he pleases (Ecclesiastes 8:3; Psalm 115:3). When God makes a covenant, he takes the initiative and promises blessing if we will fulfill the terms of the covenant.

The covenant that God made with Israel would eventually be called the Old Covenant. In speaking of the Jews, Paul says,

2 Corinthians 3:14 NLT …to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ.

So the covenant of the Law that God made with Israel is called the Old Covenant. And if the covenant of the Law is the Old Covenant, there must be a New Covenant. There is a New Covenant and that New Covenant was announced under the Old Covenant in the Old Testament, more than 600 years before the coming of Christ. We read in Jeremiah,

Jeremiah 31:31-34 NLT “The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. 33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

So we see the great difference between the Old and New Covenants. God says, “This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors.” The Old Covenant was the Law. It was external. It was written on tablets of stone. In all, there were 613 rules that they had to follow. Six hundred thirteen! Most people could not tell you what the 10 commandments were, much less the 613 rules of the Old Covenant.

God says that the New Covenant would not be like the Old Covenant. It would not be external. It would not be outside of man. It would not be written stone tablets. Rather, God would write His instructions on our hearts:

Jeremiah 31:33 ESV For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

So God’s instructions would not be on the outside of man; they would be on the inside. God would write his instructions on the heart.

The prophet Ezekiel describes the newness that comes with the New Covenant:

Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

This new heart and new Spirit is the new birth that Jesus talked about in John 3. Jesus describes it as being born of water and the Spirit. The water represents the cleansing from sin and uncleanness that Ezekiel describes: “I will sprinkle clean water on you… I will cleanse you.”

Ezekiel also tells us that this New Covenant would include a new heart and a new spirit. In fact, God would put His Spirit in us: “I will put my Spirit within you…” This is what it means to be born of the Spirit. This is the new birth, being born of water and the Spirit, being cleansed of sin and made alive unto God. This is the new birth that is necessary to enter the kingdom of God.

That was the promise of a New Covenant that God gave through the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel as the Israelites were about to be carried off into the Babylonian Captivity because they had broken the Old Covenant that God had made with them. As they had broken the Old Covenant, God promised the New Covenant.

Fast forward more than 600 years to the night before the crucifixion. Jesus and his disciples are gathered together in the upper room to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Then he takes the cup, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).

“This cup is the New Covenant in my blood,” he said.

Every time we come to the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, we celebrate the New Covenant.

The writer of Hebrews gives a remarkable commentary on the Old Covenant comparing it with the New Covenant of Jeremiah’s prophecy. In Hebrews 8:6f, we read that Jesus,

Hebrews 8:6-13 NLT …mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. 7 If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. 8 But when God found fault with the people, he said: “The day is coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 9 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to my covenant, so I turned my back on them, says the LORD. 10 But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already. 12 And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

So the author of Hebrews quotes the lengthy prophecy of Jeremiah about the New Covenant. Then he makes this commentary:

13 When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.

This is a most remarkable commentary. The New Covenant that was enacted by the shed blood of Christ is far superior to the Old Covenant of the Law. Had the Old Covenant been faultless, “there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it” (8:7). The Law was inadequate. The Law cannot change the heart. The Law needed to be replaced.

Hebrews 8:13 ESV In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The Old Covenant of the Law is obsolete. It’s out of date.

Sometimes you go to the grocery store and you see that they have radically dropped the price on something that you have been wanting to buy. Says it’s a box of cereal that normally sells for 2000vt, and you see that it is on sale for 500vt. Well, you grab it up, all excited about the great deal that you just got: a 2000vt box of cereal for 500vt! You can hardly wait for breakfast the next morning. You get out your cereal bowl and pour in the cereal, but what do you find? The cereal is full of bugs! It’s stale! It is inedible! How did that happen?

You search all over the box until you find the expiration date. You look at the calendar. Oh, no! The cereal is past the expiration date. It expired a week ago, a month ago or more! It’s no good!

That’s what the writer to the Hebrews is saying. The Old Covenant of the Law has passed its date of expiration. It is out of date. It is no longer valid. It has been replaced with the New Covenant.

So why are you still clinging to the Law? Why have you bought into the Old Covenant of the Law? Why are you trying to live by the Law? It has passed its expiration date. It was valid for a time but it has been superseded by the New Covenant. Why are you trying to live by the external Law? “Do this, do that.”

That is like trying to use an old mechanical typewriter instead of a computer. Why are you doing that? Why are you using an old worn out mechanical typewriter when there is a brand new powerful computer sitting on your desk? Why are you trying to live by the letter of the Law instead of by the power of the Spirit of God? God has given us the power of the Spirit so that we can live in a way the pleases and glorifies Him.

The Law is finished. It’s over. Get over it.

2. Shadow and Reality

Hebrews tells us that the Law was only a shadow, not the real thing:

Hebrews 10:1 ESV For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.

The Law was only a shadow. Let me illustrate. You and I are walking down the road together one afternoon. We are hungry and would like something to eat. The sun is shining brightly and suddenly on the road in front of us, we notice a shadow. We recognize from its shape that it is the shadow of a papaya tree full of papayas. Let me ask you, “Will that shadow satisfy our hunger? Will we get any nourishment or strength from the shadow?” No, we will not. But the shadow is there because there is a real papaya tree with real papayas that can satisfy our hunger and meet our need.

Hebrews tells us that the Law was only a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities. You have tried to satisfy yourself with the shadow. You have embraced the Law thinking that it is the real deal. It is not. It is only a shadow. It pointed to the reality. It pointed to Christ.

Paul also writes of the Law as a shadow in Colossians 2. He tells us that God forgave all our sins and canceled the legal charges against us by nailing them to the cross (v. 14).

Colossians 2:16-17 NLT So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.

So there are no food laws to follow: “Do not let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink.” The Christian is free to eat whatever he likes. You are free to eat meat. You are free to eat pork or any other meat that you may like. Jesus himself declared that all foods are clean:

Mark 7:14-19 NLT Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” 17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

The English Standard Version renders Mark’s explanation, “Thus he declared all foods clean.” So all foods are clean. Bon appétit!

Again in Colossians 2, Paul goes on to say that these people are not holding on to Christ, but the danger for you is that if you follow their teaching, they will disqualify you or cause you to lose the prize:

Colossians 2:18 ESV Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism [abstaining from certain things, doing without] and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,

The Scriptures warn us about people who have visions and try to take authority over our lives and rob us of our freedom in Christ. “Let no one disqualify you… going on in detail about visions…” They tell you to abstain from foods and how you must worship. These rules about what you can eat and when you must worship have nothing to do with the Christian faith. In the next verses, the Apostle Paul tells us that we are free from these rules:

Colossians 2:20-23 NLT You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.

The Apostle Paul tells us,

  1. Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths.
  2. Do not let anyone rob you of your salvation by insisting on self-denial and submission to angels. Hold on to Christ.
  3. Stop living as if you belonged to the world. Man-made rules have an appearance of wisdom, they will do nothing to help you live a life of holiness.

3. Room for Difference of Opinion

All that is very clear. There are matters of consequence, and where the Word of God speaks clearly, we must speak clearly. We must not compromise on issues where God has spoken or we will be found to oppose God. Such matters include the biblical teachings about the inspiration of the Scriptures, the nature of God, the Trinity, the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, his eternal existence before coming into the world, his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, his death on the cross for the whole world, his literal physical resurrection from the dead, his ascension to the right hand of the Father, his intercession for us. To that we could add the fall of man, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the believer producing a life of holiness without which no man shall see God, the primacy of the Church and its mission, the return of Christ, the final judgment, and the new heavens and the new earth. These truths are non-negotiables. You can see that these are weighty matters and on them the Scriptures speak with absolute clarity.

But there are also matters of opinion, areas where there may be different points of view or conviction. For example, in the area of food. We do not have the problem so much today, but in the early church there were both Gentile and Jewish Christians. The Gentile Christians were free to eat foods that some Jewish Christians, because of their upbringing, could not eat without feeling guilty. Can you imagine a church dinner where the Jewish believers would bring their kosher Jewish foods and the Gentiles would bring their non-kosher foods including pork and non-kosher foods of various kinds? The Gentiles could enjoy it all: chicken, salmon, tuna, beef, lamb, venison, and gefilte fish. Sounds good! Sometimes it is good to be a Gentile! But the Jewish believers would have a hard time swallowing bat, catfish, eel, shark, lobster, oyster, scallops, shrimp, snails, horse meat, or pork! Although Jesus declared all foods clean, some Jewish Christians having been brought up in kosher homes might have a troubled conscience if they were to eat non-kosher food.

The Bible addresses this issue in Romans 14:

Romans 14:1-4 ESV As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

You know what? Food matters do not matter. So if someone is weak in faith and feels that they cannot eat pork, let him be. Don’t look down on him. And the person who does not eat pork is not to think that he is any better than the one who does.

I’ve been to some stores where they had canned food with labels that told the customer that the ingredients looked like meat, smelled like meat, and tasted like meat, but that you could eat it because it was not really meat! If you are a Christian, you are free to eat it whether or not it is meat!

Food matters do not matter.

What about differences of opinion about the day of worship? This sounds so much more important. Surely we’ve got to get the day right! Not so. We have already seen in Colossians 2:16 that we are not to let others condemn us for not celebrating the Sabbath. The Bible says the same thing here in Romans 14:

Romans 14:5-12 NLT In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. 6 Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose– to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. 10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.'” 12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.

What does all this mean? It simply means that worshiping God in spirit and truth has nothing to do with the day that you meet for corporate worship. The person who meets with other believers to worship on Sunday must not look down on those who meet on Saturday. And those who meet to worship on Saturday must not condemn those who meet on Sundays.

Why does it not matter? It does not matter because we are not under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is obsolete. We are under the New Covenant.

4. Living with a Corpse

Death is a terrible enemy. And the Bible tells us that it is the last enemy that will be destroyed, being cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). But imagine a widow who did not want to admit that her husband had died. Going to the graveside she talks endlessly to the grave, wondering why her husband does not respond. She prepares wonderful meals for him and pleads with him to come home for something to eat. In the evening she says, “Honey won’t you come to bed with me? It’s so cold out here.” As ridiculous as that sounds, many people try to live with a corpse.

We live under the New Covenant, and according to the New Covenant we are dead to the Law. Hear the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:1-4.

Romans 7:1-4 ESV Or do you not know, brothers– for I am speaking to those who know the law– that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

God made a covenant with Israel. It was the Old Covenant of the Law. By the Law, we died to the Law. This is how Paul says it in Galatians 2:19,

Galatians 2:19-21 ESV For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

We died to the Law. We have been released from it. We are no longer under it.

Romans 7:6 NLT But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg explains,

Rom 7:7–13 clarifies that it was not the Law that was evil or deficient in any way. It was God’s perfect covenant for its era. But to try to continue to follow the Law after its fulfillment has come is like a woman who tries to remain married to her deceased husband after she is widowed. Christians are freed from the law as the covenant to which they are obligated (7:1– 6). Thus, when Paul declares in Rom 10:4 that Christ is the telos (end) of the law “so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes,” he means that Christ is both its goal and termination, as nicely captured in the TNIV’s translation “culmination.”

The coming of Christ changed everything.

Romans 10:4 NIV Christ is the [end] culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Are you trusting in the Law? Or are you trusting in Christ? Sabbath keeping will not save you. Abstaining from meat will not save you. Christ alone can save you. Hanging on the cross, he declared, “It is finished!” and the work was done.

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Let me encourage you to find a Bible-believing church where the Word of God is preached, taught, and lived, and where the Bible and only the Bible — not someone’s vision or some other book — but the Bible and the Bible alone is the one and only final authority for what we believe and what we do. There is no other foundation than the Word of God.

See also “Seventh Day Adventism”:

Sabbath Day Controversies

Sabbath Day Controversies copy

We have seen in the Gospel of John that Jesus and the Pharisees were continually in conflict over the question of the Sabbath.

1. Sabbath Day Controversies

1.1.     Jesus Heals the Lame at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5)

Microphone

Download Recording

In John 5, for example, Jesus found a man at the pool of Bethesda who had been paralyzed for 38 years. “Get up, take up your mat, and walk,” Jesus told the man. And that’s what the man did. He got up, took up his mat, and walked for the first time in 38 years.

Now that should have been tremendous news. That should have made people rejoice and glorify God. But there was just one problem. It was the Sabbath. The Pharisees were upset! They were upset first because they saw the man carrying his mat on the Sabbath:

They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” (Joh 5:10 NLT)

But Jesus had told him to do it! And the healed man told the Pharisees that he was only doing what he had been told:

John 5:11 NLT … “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.'”

Ah, so it’s not only that this man was carrying his mat, but that Jesus had healed him on the Sabbath.

Here’s the issue: the Pharisees had one interpretation of the Sabbath and Jesus had another. The Pharisees thought that the man was sinning by carrying his mat on the Sabbath. But Jesus had told him to do just that. The Pharisees thought that Jesus was guilty of sin for healing a man—doing a work— on the Sabbath. You have the Pharisees on one side of the issue and Jesus on the other.

Jesus himself talks about this conflict in John 7:

John 7:21-24 ESV Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Notice what Jesus says. The Pharisees were angry with him because on the Sabbath he had healed a man. Then he tells them, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Jesus is telling them that their emphasis on the Sabbath is an emphasis on appearances. They have missed the point. They have misunderstood the Sabbath. They are judging Jesus for having healed the man on the Sabbath, but their judgment is false. They are in error.

1.2.     Jesus Heals the Man Blind from Birth (John 9)

Next we come to John 9 where Jesus heals the man who was blind from birth. Once again, Jesus is doing his work on the Sabbath.

John 9:16 NLT Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.”…

A few verses later (v. 24) the Pharisees declare that Jesus is a sinner, but the man born blind has come to see that Jesus has come from God and is doing the will of God (v. 31-33) even though he has done this work on the Sabbath.

1.3.     Jesus’ Disciples Pick Grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12)

We find this same conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities in the other Gospels. In Matthew 12,

Matthew 12:1-2 NLT … Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. 2 But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”

Do you notice that it is the judgmental Pharisees who are in conflict with Jesus and his disciples over the Sabbath? They are on one side of the question and Jesus and his disciples are on the other side of it. The disciples were breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. “You can’t do that!” the Pharisee protested. “It’s the Sabbath!”

Jesus told him to cool it.

Matthew 12:3-7 NLT … “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. 5 And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? 6 I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple! 7 But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’

Jesus says that their legalistic approach is wrong. God calls us to show mercy: “You would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’”

These legalists, the Pharisees, had not understood the Scriptures. They were insisting on the letter of the Law. They were insisting on outward conformity. They were insisting on appearances. But they had failed to understand the intention of the Scriptures. Mark tells us,

Mark 2:27 NLT Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.

Then Jesus declared that he was the Lord of the Sabbath:

Matthew 12:8 NLT For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”

Jesus as Lord has the right to tell us the meaning of the Sabbath.

1.4.     Jesus Heals the Man with a Deformed Hand (Matthew 12:10-14)

In the next verses of Matthew 12, Jesus goes to the synagogue where he notices a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees were watching Jesus to see if he would heal the man on the sabbath.

Matthew 12:10 NLT … The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.)

Do you see their attitude? These Sabbatarian legalists were looking for something in order to accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath.

Matthew 12:11-14 NLT And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. 12 And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one! 14 Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.

These legalists—these Pharisees—fail to understand the meaning of the Sabbath. They are concerned only about appearances. They show no mercy to the person who needs help on the Sabbath. And because Jesus does not conform to their interpretation of the Sabbath, they plot to kill him!

1.5.     Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-18)

We read in Luke 13:10-16 (NLT),

One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, 11 he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” 13 Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God! 14 But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. “There are six days of the week for working,” he said to the crowd. “Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.” 15 But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? 16 This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”

1.6.     Jesus Heals a Man of Dropsy (Luke 14:1-6)

On another occasion, a Sabbath day, Jesus was having dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees. Everyone was watching Jesus closely because there was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen by a disease called dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?” but they refused to answer him. So Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him on his way.

Luke 14:5-6 NLT Then he turned to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?” 6 Again they could not answer.

“Jesus consciously chose the Sabbath day to perform some of His most extraordinary miracles”[1] for three reasons:

  1. To show that He is Lord of the Sabbath.

Mark 2:28 ESV So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

  1. To expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

Mark 7:6-7 ESV And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

  1. To show the real reason for the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27 ESV And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

So we see that Jesus was constantly in conflict with the Pharisees over the question of the Sabbath. They insisted on a strict observance of the Sabbath according to their interpretation. Jesus insisted that their interpretation was wrong.

 

 2. Different Interpretations Cannot All Be Right

Jesus was in conflict with the religious authorities not only about the Sabbath, but also about the Law. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus shows that the Pharisees had repeatedly misunderstood the meaning of the Old Testament Law. The Pharisees focussed on appearances. They stressed outward conformity to the Law but had missed the intention of the Law. The Pharisees were careful to tithe on everything they received. They fasted twice a week. They were diligent to observe the Sabbath and had added 39 Sabbath rules to the Law to make sure that no one broke it, but they had miserably failed to understand the purpose of the Law. The Pharisees believed that they were righteous, but Jesus said that their righteousness was not enough:

Matthew 5:20 ESV For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Then Jesus gives six examples of how they had misinterpreted the Scriptures.

2.1.     Murder

Matthew 5:21-22 NLT “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Because the Pharisees had not murdered anyone—though they were plotting to kill Jesus!—they thought they were righteous. Jesus said that we must not have murder in our hearts: we must not be angry with someone, insult them, or curse them. We must not murder with our words or our looks.

2.2.     Adultery

Matthew 5:27-28 NLT “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

It is not enough to avoid the act; you must avoid the desire. Thank God for the anti-pornography laws in this country, but with the Internet, pornography is a click away. You must flee from it. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

2.3.     Divorce

Matthew 5:31 NLT “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’

How considerate! Give her a certificate of divorce so she’ll be free to remarry. No, Jesus says. You are causing her to commit adultery by remarrying, and whoever marries her commits adultery. Jesus takes us back to the beginning when God created male and female and says, “What God has put together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).

2.4.     Vows

Matthew 5:33 NLT “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the LORD.’

Jesus tells us that we should not make vows; we should simply always tell the truth. We must be people of our word.

2.5.     Justice

Matthew 5:38 ESV “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’

Jesus tells them that they have missed the point. This is not about vengeance or getting even. This Old Testament word is not addressed to individuals but to the system of justice. Punishment should be meted out according to the crime. But as for us as individuals, we are not to seek revenge.

2.6.     How to Treat Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-44 ESV “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

The Law never said to hate your enemy, but that is how the Pharisees had misinterpreted it.

2.7.     The Pharisees had the Law, but they had misinterpreted it.

  • No murder, but it’s okay to hate, insult, and curse someone.
  • No adultery, but it doesn’t hurt to look.
  • Tired of your wife? Give her a piece of paper so you can marry the woman you want.
  • If you made a vow, you’ll have to honor it. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what you said.
  • Someone hurt you? Hurt them back.
  • Got an enemy? It’s okay to hate. Just love those who love you.

That’s how the Pharisees had interpreted the Law. They had missed it completely.

2.8.     Selective Obedience

  1. T. Kendall points out, “It is interesting to note that the greatest enemies of Jesus were strict Sabbatarians. [Jesus’ greatest enemies were people who insisted on keeping the Sabbath.] The probable reasons for this were because one could keep the Sabbath and feel good about oneself; it did not require any change of heart, and it was also a way of making one feel righteous.”[2]

The Pharisees picked and chose the commandments that they would obey. Sabbath keeping made them feel good about themselves, but they were merely self-righteous.

Jesus confronts them about their selective obedience in Matthew 15:

Matthew 15:1-9 NLT Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, 2 “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.” 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? 4 For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 5 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 6 In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, 8 ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.'”

 

3. Where Did the Sabbath Come From?

3.1.     The Institution of the Sabbath

So let’s look at this question of the Sabbath. Where did the Sabbath come from?

Some people teach that there has always been a Sabbath. But that is not what the Bible reveals. The first time the Sabbath is mentioned in the Bible is in Exodus 16:23, some 2,500 years after the creation of the heavens and the earth. God created everything that exists in six days and rested the seventh day, but He did not give the Sabbath to man until He brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. We read in…

Genesis 2:15 ESV The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

God gave Adam work to do, but there is no mention of resting on the seventh day. When Adam and Eve sinned and were expelled from the Garden of Eden,

Genesis 3:23 ESV … the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

Again, there is no mention of a Sabbath.

Cain is called “a worker of the ground” (Genesis 4:2). There is no mention of a Sabbath for Noah, Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. When Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, he worked (Genesis 39:11). The whole nation of Israel became slaves in Egypt:

Exodus 1:13-14 NLT So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. 14 They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.

God raised up Moses and Aaron.

Exodus 5:1 NLT …[They] went and spoke to Pharaoh. They told him, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.”

Instead, Pharaoh increased the work that the Israelites had to do. They would no longer be supplied with straw but would have to first find it for themselves and then make the same number of bricks. There was no Sabbath. There was no rest.

The word “Sabbath” is not mentioned in Scripture until after God had delivered the Israelites from Egypt. The first time the word “Sabbath” is mentioned in the Bible is when the Israelites are in the wilderness. All they had known for 400 years of slavery in Egypt was work, day after day after day, with no rest, no Sabbath. God had not yet given the Sabbath.

Now the Israelites have been delivered from Egypt by the power of God. They have crossed the Red Sea as on dry ground. They find themselves in the wilderness with nothing to eat. But when they wake up in the morning, the ground is covered with something to eat. “Manna?” they say. Manna means, “What is it?” It was bread from heaven. And with the manna, God gives them the Sabbath. They will gather the manna every day for six days, but the seventh day will be a Sabbath:

Exodus 16:29 ESV See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”

This is the beginning of the Sabbath for man. The foundation for the Sabbath is found in God’s work in creation: God “worked” for six days and on the seventh day He rested. But the very first mention of the word “Sabbath” is in Exodus 16 when God gives the Sabbath to the Israelites: “See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath…”

3.2.     The Meaning of the Sabbath

What is the meaning of the Sabbath? The first thing that is evident is that the Sabbath has something to do with work. Time and again the Israelites are told that they are to do no work on the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath is the fourth of the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:9-11 ESV Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

No work. We repeatedly find this emphasis on not doing any work on the Sabbath.

But why no work? Why does God establish one day in seven for the Israelites as a day when no work is to be done? What is the meaning of this day when no work is to be done? Exodus 31:13 tells us that the Sabbath is a sign.

Exodus 31:13 NIVO “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.

The Sabbath is a sign. A sign signifies something. God is teaching the Israelites something through the sign of the Sabbath: “This will be a sign… so you may know that I am the LORD who makes you holy.” No work: the LORD makes us holy.

The Sabbath was a weekly sign that salvation is not our work; it is God’s work. It was God that saved the Israelites from Egypt. Standing before the Red Sea,

Exodus 14:13 ESV …Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.

God is our Savior. He does the work. The Sabbath was a weekly sign that salvation is not our work; it is God’s work. He is the one who sanctifies us. We cannot save ourselves.

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

3.3.     The Perversion of the Sabbath

But what happens if you make the Sabbath a work? What happens if we begin to believe that what God really wants from us is Sabbath day observance? What happens if we begin to think that God’s primary intention is that we be Sabbath keepers?

This is what happens: the message of the Sabbath is perverted. The message of the Sabbath was “no work.” Salvation is not our work; it is God’s work. But we have changed the message. We have made the Sabbath a work to be done when the message of the Sabbath is really “no work.” We have put our trust in our keeping of the Sabbath. We have begun to think that keeping the Sabbath will save us.

If someone tells you that you must keep the Sabbath to be saved, he is preaching a different gospel than the gospel that was preached in the New Testament. If someone tells you that you must worship on Saturday and not Sunday, that person is living under the curse of the Law and not under the freedom of the gospel.

Galatians 3:10-11 NLT But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” 11 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

 

4. The Sabbath in the New Testament

We have already seen that Jesus and the Pharisees were continuously in conflict over the interpretation of the Sabbath. It is worth noting that in the New Testament, Christians are never told to keep the Sabbath.

Matthew 19:16 NLT Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus told him to keep the commandments.

Matthew 19:18-19 NLT “Which ones?” the man asked. And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. 19 Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Jesus did not tell him to keep the Sabbath.

Paul quotes from the Ten Commandments, but does not mention the Sabbath:

Romans 13:9-10 ESV For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

James also quotes from the Ten Commandments:

James 2:8-11 ESV If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

But again, there is no mention of the Sabbath. “What is never once mentioned or even implied: the fourth commandment. Is it not strange that it is not even quoted? Must there not be a reason for this?”[3]

4.1.     The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the beginning of a new creation. It was not on the last day of the week that Christ was raised from the dead, but the first day. All four Gospels point to the fact that Christ was raised the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). He appeared that first Resurrection Day to the disciples who had gathered together in the upper room. He appeared to them again, this time with Thomas, on the next Resurrection Day, eight days later (John 20:26).

The first 12 chapters of Acts concern the growth of the church in Israel, but the Sabbath is not even mentioned. The Sabbath is mentioned in Paul’s missionary journeys because Paul went first to the Jews, and the Jews worshipped on the Sabbath. But the Christians had already begun to worship on the first day of the week.

4.2.     The First Day of the Week

In Acts 20, Paul is in a hurry to get to Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost (20:16). But when he arrives in Troas, he stayed for seven days (20:6). What was he waiting for? He waiting for the first day of the week:

Acts 20:7 ESV On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

Notice that it was the first day of the week that the church was gathered together to break bread, in other words, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Paul delayed his departure for Jerusalem so that he could meet with the church that gathered together on the first day of the week, not on the Sabbath.

Again, in 1 Corinthians 16, we see that the believers met together to celebrate the resurrection of Christ on the first day of the week.

1 Corinthians 16:2 ESV On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

Paul is not simply telling the believers to be systematic in their saving up an offering for the saints at Jerusalem, otherwise he could tell them to put something aside each week without telling them what day of the week to put something aside. Paul is telling them to put aside a porting of the money they have earned “on the first day of every week” because that was the day that the church met.

4.3.     The Lord’s Day

In Revelation 1:10, the Apostle John says,

Revelation 1:10 ESV I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…

The first day of the week became known as “the Lord’s Day.” It was the Lord’s Day because it was the day that the Lord was raised from the dead. Worshiping the Lord on the Lord’s Day became the practice of the early church as the writings of the early church fathers clearly demonstrate.

 

Concluding Remarks

We have run out of time today, but let me conclude in saying first, that the message of the Sabbath is “no work.” Why no work? Because our works will never save us.

Ephesians 2:8-9 NIVO For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

The Sabbath is a sign:

Exodus 31:13 NIVO “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.

If we turn the Sabbath into a work that we must do, we pervert the Sabbath.

Second, the resurrection of Christ began the new creation. The resurrection of Christ changes everything. The early church began celebrating the resurrection of Christ the first day of the week, “the Lord’s Day.”

[1] R. T. Kendall, Grace, p. 115.

[2] R. T. Kendall, Grace, p. 114.

[3] R. T. Kendall, Grace, p. 118.

See also “Seventh Day Adventism“: