The Sabbath Dispute
Sorry to be so irregular in getting blog post out these days! Every once in a while, when my forehead is healed up and my wife has got all the drywall residue out of my clothes, I engage some Sabbatarians in conversation/debate. (I’m sure they feel the same way about having discussions with me!) On the off chance that you don’t what I’m talking about – the debate has raged on now for over two thousand years – Why don’t Christians keep the Sabbath (at all or specifically, on Saturday?)
Although pigeon-holing never really accurately captures the truth of a thing, I find Sabbatarians to fall into two major camps – Adventist and Jewish Roots Christians. The core of the argument for either group may be expressed like this – God gave ten commandments and we (Christians) strive to keep nine of them but ignore the command to remember the sabbath and keep it holy. If murder, theft and covetousness are still wrong under the New Covenant, If we are still to worship the One True God and Him alone, if dishonesty and dishonor of one’s parents is still seen as problematic, if we still regard adultery as contrary to God’s will.…Where do we get off ignoring the Sabbath?
We non-Sabbatarians offer more than one answer but a good starting point is – The other nine commandments are repeated in one form or another in the New Covenant Scriptures but the Sabbath commandment is not. Sabbatarians generally counter with one of two arguments – sometimes both.
Sabbatarians respond – ‘You have fallen into the II Peter 3:16 trap! Peter says Paul says some things that are hard to understand and which the unstable twist to their own destruction. Paul wasn’t speaking about the Jewish kosher laws in Colossians 2 but about the pagan practice of eating meats sacrificed to idols and when he said not to let anyone judge you according to a sabbath day, he wasn’t speaking of the Jewish Sabbath but about pagan (Sunday/Sabbath) worshippers who maintained the Pagan Sun Worship practice (Sunday – get it) who were judging the poor Colossian Christians for their totally appropriate practice of worshipping on Saturday!’
I reply that the issue for Paul – who did speak elsewhere about eating meat sacrificed to idols but in the context of the Jewish law finding it unacceptable – was actually responding to the problem of pagan converts being pressured by Judaizers to keep the law. Read Acts 15.
As to point B – Yes Jesus kept the Sabbath – and celebrated the Passover – and, I suspect, avoided pork. Jesus fulfilled the law. This is to say – Jesus fulfilled the terms of the Mosaic Covenant – SO THAT HE COULD ALSO FULFILL THE PROMISE OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT. The point of Jesus fulfilling the law is not that I should avoid pork – or cheeseburgers. (Here the Jewish Root Sabbatarians split from the Adventist Sabbatarians – ‘It is so!’)
I have only begun the usual course of this conversation and I am already picking plaster from the creases of my forehead. Again – I am sure the Sabbatarians feel the same way. Understand this – I am good to worship God (individually or corporately) any day of the week! But I am not willing to trade the Lord’s Supper for a return to the Passover – or to reduce the blessing of the Lord’s supper by relegating the experience to the keeping of a command(ment). Nor will I trade the true Sabbath rest of Hebrews 4 for the foreshadowed version that was part of the ministry of death in letters carved on stone. As to other commandments – I don’t kill or steal because the love of God lives in my heart. If I have to reduce such a basic level of righteousness to a matter of commandments then I truly am back to the Old Covenant and then I would have to wonder just what exactly, Christ died for.
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Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Pastor of Indian Run Christian Church