The Sabbath and the Law

Someone once asked me, "Don't you believe in keeping the Ten Commandments? Then why don't you obey the 4th commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy?" (Ex. 20:8)

My answer was, "I believe that I can't keep the Ten Commandments." He had nothing to offer in response because he knew he couldn't keep them either.

The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, which is Saturday (Ex. 20:10). It was given as sign to Israel to commemorate the deliverance from Egypt (Ex. 31:13, Deut. 5:15). Since it was given to Israel under the Old Covenant, it has no significance for those who are under the New Covenant, in which all national and racial distinctions disappear (Col. 3:11).

For those insist on keeping the Sabbath, they must keep it according to God's instructions. They must not go out of their house (Ex. 16:29), or make a fire (Ex. 35:3). That means no cooking, baking, or boiling if the Sabbath is properly observed. The Sabbath was to be rigidly enforced, even by implementing the death penalty (Ex. 35:2, Num. 15:32-36).

However, the Sabbath was temporary until Christ came. "Therefore, let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or new moon or a Sabbath day; things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (Col. 2:16-17). We are no longer under obligation to keep the Sabbath, but can worship on any day we choose (Gal. 4:10-11, Rom. 14:5-6).

Since the Sabbath is part of the Law, the real question is whether or not under the New Covenant we are obligated to keep the Old Testament Law.

What is the Law?

The Law is a unit of 613 commandments given by God to the people of Israel. The word Law is sometimes used when referring to all Old Testament writings such as in John 10:34, 15:25 when Jesus quotes Psalms and 1 Cor. 14:21 when Paul quotes Isaiah. But it is important to remember there is only one Law. When the refer to the moral, ceremonial, and civil laws, we are speaking of three aspects of the Law, not three laws. Those who say we must keep the Law tell us that Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial and civil laws, but not the moral law. However, there are over twenty passages in the New Testament that tell us that there is only one Law.

The Purpose of the Law

Why was the Law given? For a couple of reasons.
First, it was given to point out our sins. "Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions…" (Gal. 3:19). It is the standard that is used to show how sinful we are. When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, it tells me that I need to shave. It points out the problem by revealing what I look like. I don't take the mirror off the wall to shave my face. The mirror has served its purpose by pointing out the problem, but I must find a different way to solve the shaving problem.

Many people think the Law was given so that by keeping it we will become righteous. This is a wrong understanding of the Law. It is like a football player running down the sidelines 99 yards for a touchdown. But the referee calls it back because he stepped out of bounds on the 4, 12, 23, 36, 47, 43, 31, 22, and 3 yard lines. The player responds, "But look how many times I stayed in bounds." All it takes is one violation to penalize the play. The Law is our referee to show us how many times that we step out of bounds. It shows how utterly filthy and wicked our sin is (Rom. 7:13). In God's eyes, even our righteousness is called filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).

Second, it points to the Savior. "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us Christ, that we may be justified by faith." (Gal. 3:24). The Law not only points out the problem, but also the solution. It is our tutor (teacher) to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith, not by keeping the Law. Jesus paid for all of the sins of the world (1 John 2:2, 1 Pet. 2:24), the very sins the Law pointed out. The only way to receive forgiveness from sins is by receiving Jesus Christ into our lives because there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12).

No One Can Keep the Law

The Law is weak No one is able to keep the Law. Heb. 7:18-19 tells us that the Law was set aside because of its weakness, because the Law made nothing perfect. As a matter of fact, the power of sin is in trying to keep the Law (1 Cor. 15:56). This is why Paul said the Law was given so that transgression might increase (Rom. 5:20). Sin takes opportunity through the commandments and becomes alive by increasing the desires to break them (Rom. 7:8-9).

The Law is a unit Most people have think it is "Laws" rather than "Law." If we keep the entire Law and break only one, we are guilty of breaking them all. "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all" (James 2:10). The Law is not like a carton of eggs, where if you break 5 you still have 7 unbroken eggs. It is like a sheet of glass--if you break one part, the whole sheet is broken. If you keep one part of the Law, such as the Sabbath, you are obligated to keep them all.

The Law doesn't justify No one will be justified by the Law. "Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20). If the Law was able to impart life, then righteousness would have been based on the Law (Gal. 3:21). But it can't, so it isn't. The following verses show that Christians are not obligated to keep the Old Testament Law.

Matt. 5:17 Jesus fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Law.
John 1:17 The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth realized through Christ
Rom. 3:20 Through the works of the Law no one will be justified
Rom. 3:28 Justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.
Rom. 4:5 God justifies those who do not work.
Rom. 6:14 We are not under law, but under grace.
Rom. 6:23 Eternal life is a free gift.
Rom. 7:4 We were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ.
Rom. 8:2 The law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death.
Rom. 8:3 The Law was weak through the flesh and could not save us.
Rom. 10:4 Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Rom. 11:6 Grace is no longer on the basis of works.
Gal. 2:16 By the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified
Gal. 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law
Gal. 3:24 The Law is our tutor to lead us to Christ
Gal. 3:25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the Law.
Gal. 5:18 If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
Eph. 2:8-9 We are saved by grace, not as a result of works.
Eph. 2:14-15 The Law was abolished in the flesh of Christ
Phil. 3:9 Righteousness is not derived by the Law.
Col. 2:14 Christ took the decrees out of the way on the cross.
2 Tim. 1:9 Salvation is not according to works.
Titus 3:5 He did not save us according to our deeds, but according to His mercy.
Titus 3:7 We are justified by His grace.
Heb. 7:12 A change of law has take place.
Heb. 7:18-19 Law set aside because of its weakness
Heb. 7:19 The Law made nothing perfect
Heb. 8:13 The New Covenant makes the Old Covenant obsolete.
Heb. 10:1 The Law was only a shadow of good things to come.
Heb. 10:9 God takes away the first covenant to establish the second.

Now Under Grace

Some people try to argue, "If we are no longer under Law, what's left to keep us in line? That means we can now sin all we want." On the contrary. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age." (Titus 2:11-12).

Grace is actually a higher law than the Old Testament Law. Airplanes can fly because the law of aerodynamics is a higher law than the law of gravity. Grace changes our hearts so that we want to do God's will. It is called the law of liberty (James 1:25, 2:12), the royal law (James 2:8), the law of the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:1-4), the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), the law of faith (Rom. 3:27), and the law within (Heb. 8:10). We are now under the law of the Spirit who lives within every believer, and are not under the letter of the Law. "For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Cor. 3:6)

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