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

Modern-Day Prophets and the Bible

http://acrookedpath.com/2014/09/16/bible/

Download Recording

Why has the Christian Church not embraced the writings of the modern-day prophets? Why has the Church not incorporated into the Bible the writings of the 19th century prophets like Joseph Smith or Ellen G. White? Why has the Church not accepted the interpretations of Charles Taze Russell and Joseph Franklin Rutherford, the first leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why has the Christian Church not embraced the special New World Translation of the Bible prepared by the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Today we want to consider modern-day prophets and the Bible, and the question of truth and where we find it. It is not our desire to be controversial, but controversy has long been part of the history of the Christian Church. Today we see much controversy and conflict in the church over various teachings. Some churches want to keep in step with the times, to get with the program, to be relevant to today’s world. In some places the church blends in so well with the surrounding culture that no one can see any difference between the church and the world. There is no separation. No distinction. The church is the world. One well-known missiologist, Leslie Newbigin, said that when the church becomes just like the world, it is no longer a viable alternative to a corrupted culture. It no longer gives people hope that life can be different.

 

Truth and Controversy

We see plenty of controversy in the church world today, but controversy is not new. We find controversy in the church in the 19th and 20th centuries as theological liberalism and a modern scientific worldview became the standard of truth in some circles. We find controversy in the 16th century when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany. We find controversy in the church councils in the first centuries after Christ. We find controversy in the New Testament itself.

Jesus Christ himself was a controversial figure. He was so controversial that the religious authorities had him crucified, killed, and buried, thinking that would end the story. But God raised Jesus from the dead, and the controversy continued. The Jewish authorities forbid the disciples of Jesus Christ from preaching about his resurrection and teaching in the name of Jesus, but the disciples could not be silenced. They were imprisoned, beaten, whipped, some were stoned, and some were even beheaded. But that did not stop the church from preaching the good news of what God had done in Jesus Christ, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that he was literally, physically raised from dead on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).

There was controversy in the church itself when the Apostle Peter preached the gospel to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem demanded that he explain why he had entered the house of Gentiles and had eaten with them (Acts 10-11).

There was controversy in the churches of Galatia when Judaizers came behind the Apostle Paul and told the new converts that they had to follow the Law of Moses to be saved. Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians to correct that error.

There was controversy in Acts 15 when believers of the party of the Pharisees told Paul that he needed to circumcise the Gentile believers and to order them to keep the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5). The Church dealt with these issues and gave clear responses to their opponents. The Church never shied away from controversy. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that we must always be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have to anyone who asks (1 Peter 3:15).

These were not minor issues. They were major questions.

         Is Jesus Christ the only way to God?

         What must we do to be saved?

         Are we saved by the finished work of Jesus Christ, or must we do certain works to be saved?

It is not my desire today to be controversial, but as Luke wrote in his Gospel, my desire and prayer is…

Luke 1:4 ESV that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

It is my desire to be useful as was Apollos who “greatly helped those who through grace had believed” (Acts 18:28).

We are okay with reading about controversy in the New Testament. We can read the story of how the Holy Spirit led the church and resolved the conflicts and spoke through the writings of the New Testament Scriptures. But it is quite another thing to be in the middle of controversy. We would almost do anything to avoid controversy. Many would rather compromise the truth than to be involved in controversy. They would sacrifice truth on the altar of compromise. Anything to avoid conflict, for the simple reason that they have no conviction about the truth. The truth has not taken hold of them. Their idea is that we must seek peace at all costs. Lay down your weapons. Put up your sword. There is nothing worth fighting for. But that is capitulation, nothing less than a full surrender to the enemy.

There is a time for peace.

Romans 12:18 ESV If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

“If possible.” It is not always possible to live peaceable with everyone. “So far as it depends on you.” It does not always depend on us. But there is a time for compromise on non-essentials. An example of non essentials is found in Romans 14.

Romans 14:1-6 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. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

There are questions that are simply a matter of opinion. They have nothing to do with the nature of God or of Christ or of the Holy Spirit or of salvation. The Scriptures tells us that we must not cause division over opinions. Where the Bible has not spoken clearly, we should not be dogmatic or divisive.

So in order to be in harmony with everyone, why not accept the visions and the teachings and the writings of Ellen G. White as inspired Scripture? Why not simply incorporate the writings of Joseph Smith into the Bible? Why not simply accept the Book of Mormon and The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrines and Covenants into the Bible? Why not accept the teachings of Charles Taze Russell and the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ special New World Translation of the Bible? Why not embrace the teachings of John Thomas and the Christadelphians? Why should we not accept the teachings of Baha’i and the Bahá’u’lláh? Why not accept these modern-day prophets? Wouldn’t it be better to simply accept these modern-day prophets and their teachings than to be divided? Shouldn’t we simply pursue unity? Isn’t that the Christian way?

A close reading of the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, shows that we cannot accept the teachings of every one who calls himself a prophet.

Why should we not accept the teachings of these different modern-day prophets?

1.        First, we should not accept their teachings because we cannot accept their teachings. We cannot accept their teachings because their teachings contradict each other. Each of these groups teaches very different things about God, about Christ, about salvation, and about a host of other vital biblical doctrines. Some say that there are many gods. Some say that God was first a man who evolved into a god. Some say that Christ was not God. Some say that he was a god but not Almighty God. Some say that he was the archangel Michael in the Old Testament. Some say that he was just a man. The Bible teaches that he “the only God, who is at the Father’s side” (John 1:18). It is impossible to accept the teachings these modern-day prophets because these prophets contradict each other on matters of extreme importance.

2.        Second, we cannot accept the teachings of these prophets because their teachings contradict the teachings of the Word of God. Some denounce the Apostle Paul because his teaching does not agree with the teachings of their prophetess. They are right. The teachings of the Apostle Paul do not agree with the teachings of their prophetess, but they are denouncing the wrong person. By rejecting the clear teaching of the New Testament, they reject the gospel.

3.        Third, each of these groups with the exception of the Baha’is (which is not a Christian cult, but an Islamic cult) — each group claims to have restored the Church of Jesus Christ and to be the only true church. Well, they cannot all be the only true church. In fact, any church which claims to be the only true church, shows that it is not a true church at all.

Any group that claims to restore the Church of Jesus Christ, is saying that Jesus Christ failed to keep his promise. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18 ESV). Jesus has always had a remnant even in the darkest times of the history of the Church.

 

The Nature of Truth

The very nature of truth is that it stands in contrast with error. It is the opposite of fiction, fabrication, invention, or lies. Day is not night and night is not day. Right is not wrong and wrong is not right. Truth does not embrace all possible choices. Truth is not confused.

The truth is worth dying for. John the Baptist was beheaded for announcing the truth. Stephen was stoned to death for the truth of the gospel. James was also beheaded for the sake of the gospel. The truth of the gospel is worth dying for.

In fact, more than physical life itself, our eternal destiny — our salvation depends on holding fast to the truth.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 ESV Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you– unless you believed in vain.

Paul says that we are saved by the gospel “if you hold fast to the word I preached to you.” Otherwise you have believed in vain. Paul goes on to define the terms of the gospel:

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

The fundamental truths of the gospel are not negotiable. We cannot change them, take away from them, or add to them.

The Judaizers had followed Apostle Paul in Galatia and had added conditions to the gospel. It sounded reasonable. It made sense. But it was not the gospel. The Apostle Paul writes to the Galatians with unmistakable directness:

Galatians 1:6-12 NLT I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News 7 but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. 8 Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. 9 I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed. 10 Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. 11 Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. 12 I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

Controversy is not new. Nearly every book of the New Testament warns the Church about false teachers and how to deal with them. In the Gospels, Jesus warns about false prophets, false teachers, and false Christs. He warns us that many will come in his name, claiming to be his representatives, and that they will deceive many.

Matthew 7:15 NLT “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.

Matthew 24:11 NLT And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people.

Matthew 24:24-26 NLT For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 25 See, I have warned you about this ahead of time. 26 “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it!

The Apostle Paul tells the elders at Ephesus,

Acts 20:29-31 NLT I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. 30 Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. 31 Watch out!…

He rebukes the Church at Corinth,

2 Corinthians 11:4 NLT You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

They had no discernment. They believed whatever anyone told them, even when they preached a different Jesus.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NLT These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.

Paul warns the Galatians about the false teachers that want to bring them under the law of Moses:

Galatians 2:4 NLT … some so-called Christians there– false ones, really– … were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations.

Galatians 4:17 NLT Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them.

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.

Paul warns the Romans about people who cause divisions by teaching different things:

Romans 16:17-18 NLT And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.

The Apostle Peter warns us,

2 Peter 2:1-2 ESV But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.

The Apostle John warns us,

2 John 1:7-10 NIVO Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.

We must take these warnings seriously. They were written for us.

 

The Bible Is a Closed Book

So where do we find the truth?

John 8:31-32 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Where do we find the truth? We find the truth in God’s Word. God has revealed His truth to us in a book, and that book is the Bible.

In the Old Testament, we see that God revealed Himself through the Word. We do not speculate about God’s nature, His will, or His ways; we simply bear witness to what God has said about Himself.

The Bible bears witness to itself as the written Word of God, a claim that springs from the fact that God has spoken. In the Old Testament alone, the phrases “the Lord said,” the Lord spoke,” and “the word of the Lord came” appear at least 3,808 times… “where Scripture speaks, God speaks.”[1]

When God gave the Old Covenant of the Law, He introduced Himself as “I am the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:2a). He gave the historical context: “who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:2b). He gave the conditions of the covenant, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). God listed blessings and curses (Exodus 20:5-7, 11-12). This covenant is put written form, written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18). Finally, there was curse upon anyone who seeks to change the wording of the covenant documents:[2]

Deuteronomy 4:2 ESV You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.

At the same time, the Old Covenant anticipates the New Covenant:

Jeremiah 31:31 ESV “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,

Certainly any first-century Jew, when confronted with the term “covenant” (berth) in Jeremiah 31, would have understood…that this new covenant, like the old covenant, would be accompanied by the appropriate written texts to testify to the terms of the new arrangement that God was establishing with his people.[3]

When we come to the New Testament, Jesus appointed and commissioned his apostles to be his authoritative witnesses: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Peter tells us that the apostles were “chosen by God as witnesses… to preach to the people and to testify that [Christ] is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the death” (Acts 10:41-42).

As Christ’s spokesmen, the apostles bore his full authority and power: “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me” (Luke 10:16).[4]

The words of the apostles that the Lord had chosen are the words of the Lord and have the same authority has the words of the Old Testament prophets:

2 Peter 3:2 ESV …you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,

Peter states that the Lord Jesus Christ has spoken through the apostles. The New Testament apostles are conscious that they are writing the Word of God.

Galatians 1:1 ESV Paul, an apostle– not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead–

1 Corinthians 14:37 ESV If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.

1 John 4:6 ESV We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

The Church of Jesus Christ is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20 ESV). Paul goes on to say that God’s eternal plan “has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5 ESV). He says that same thing again in Romans 16:26 when he says that the secret plan of God “has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith.”

The Apostle Peter recognized that the Apostle Paul’s writings were Scripture. Peter said that

2 Peter 3:16 NLT …those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.

There was an expectation that the New Covenant, like the Old Covenant, would have its written documents—its Scriptures—explaining its historical context, its terms and conditions, as well as its blessings and curses.

There was an expectation that the New Covenant Scriptures, i.e. the New Testament Scriptures, would be closed with the death of the apostles, those apostles that the Lord of the Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ, had appointed to write the New Testament Scriptures.

There would have been no expectation that 1,800 years later modern-day prophets would add to the sacred Scriptures. Indeed, such prophets would have been recognized as the very prophets that the Lord Jesus had warned his disciples about: false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing, deceiving many.

Notice what Jude tells us:

Jude 1:3 NLT Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.

He urges us to defend the faith, to stand up for the truth of the gospel. He says that God entrusted this faith to us “once for all time.” It is not to be updated with modern-day prophecies. It is not to be modified, or added to, or taken away from. False teachings, false prophets, and false churches are all around. You and I must defend the truth, the faith that God has entrusted to us once for all time.

 

The Scriptures Are Complete

There are many verses that speak about the inspiration of the Scriptures that we have not considered. Perhaps the best known is in Paul’s second letter to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

I want to focus on that last phrase “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” This indicates that the Scriptures are complete. They are sufficient. They are all that we need to be equipped for everything that we need to do.

That means that we must not add to the Scriptures. In fact, just as the Old Covenant contained a warning about adding it, the New Covenant also warns us not to add or take away from God’s Word. There is a curse upon anyone who would modify the wording of the New Covenant:

Revelation 22:18-19 ESV I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

The Bible is a closed book, so to speak. It has a beginning and an ending. It begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth:

Genesis 1:1 ESV In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

And it ends with the new creation:

Revelation 21:1 ESV Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God which he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.[5]

That does not mean that the Bible tells us everything that we might want to know. It means that the Bible is sufficient for what God intended for it to accomplish.

 

The Scriptures Are Clear

The Scriptures are not mystical. They are not mysterious. The Bible is not full of secret hidden meanings.

In Ephesians 3, Paul tells us that God revealed His plan to “his holy apostles and prophets.” Paul wrote down what God revealed to him. Then Paul says,

Ephesians 3:4 NLT As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ.

Now that is amazing! God revealed His plan to His apostles and prophets. They wrote down what God revealed to them. The revelation is written in words. The words can be read. And as we read the revelation, we can understand exactly what Paul and the apostles and prophets understood.

That does not mean that it is necessarily easy. We do have to think!

2 Timothy 2:7 NLT Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.

So what does all that mean? That means that you and I can understand that Bible. We do not have to have a modern-day prophet to tell us what it means. We can read the Scriptures for ourselves. One of the reasons why people are led astray by false prophets is that they do not read the Bible for themselves.

Part of our problem is that we sometimes try to read the Bible in ways that we would never read any other book. The Bible is composed of 66 books. If we are to understand a book of the Bible, we need to read the entire book. Our Bibles today are divided into chapters and verses, but they were not written that way. Moses never wrote a verse. Matthew never wrote a chapter. They wrote books. About 1000 years after Christ, the books of the Bible were divided into chapters. In about 1557, a French printer named Robert Étienne divided the chapters into verses. That is a great idea if you are trying to find a certain text, but too often people pick a verse and try to understand it without reading the whole book. You would never do that with any other book. You wouldn’t even try to understand a newspaper article by reading only one sentence. You must read the book.

Let me challenge you in this coming new year, to read at least one chapter of the Bible every day in 2015. If you have a hard time reading, meet with other Christians who will read the Bible aloud, one chapter every day. Read straight through whole books of the Bible. Read through the book of Genesis, chapter by chapter. Then skip over to the New Testament and read Matthew, one chapter every day. Then back to Exodus. Then back to the New Testament again. If you read three chapters a day and five chapters on Sunday, you’ll be able to read the entire Bible in 2015! That would be a great accomplishment and would help you to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


[1]Albert Mohler, He Is Not Silent, p. 41.

[2]Andreas Köstenberger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, p. 111.

[3]Andreas Köstenberger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, p. 112.

[4]Andreas Köstenberger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, p. 115.

[5]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994, 2000), 12

See also:

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”:

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“: