I thought about this post because I have fairly recently been engaged in this discussion with a Seventh-day Adventist, then later with my brother, and then this past week I saw a comment posted on another blog, charging Christians with not keeping the Sabbath. So this is my analysis of the issue.
Before the Law of Moses there was no Sabbath. When God made the seventh day holy in Genesis, that's all we know about it - He made it holy. God doesn't say what the day was going to be for, just that it was made holy, meaning "set apart." Set apart for what? We aren't told. The very first time the word Sabbath is mentioned is Exodus 16:23-30 when God gives it to Israel as a day of rest - not as a day of worship, since they were to worship God daily.
Okay, now with that prelude, let me digress to the connection between the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath.
Let me first point out that the Law of Moses (hereafter referred to as the “Law”) was only for Israel and no other nation. The Gentiles did not have the Law, nor were they ever to be given it or mandated to follow it. (For biblical references see: Deut. 4:7-8; Lev. 27:34; Ps.147:19-20; Neh. 9:14; Mal. 4:4; Acts 15: 5, 24; Rom. 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:7-8, 11, 14; Gal. 3:25; Heb. 7:12, 18.)
So then, does that mean the Gentiles had no moral law? Of course not. Romans 2:14-15 says the moral law is written on the hearts of all people.
Now, as to the Ten Commandments, which are part of the Law and not given to anyone but Israel - notice how they do indeed sum up the moral law which is on everyone's heart, with the exception of the command about the Sabbath, because there is no moral issue there. Using the Ten Commandment list, here is what the moral law sums up as, and why:
1. No other God: Implicit because God is the only true God and He is the creator. To worship any other is fraudulent worship. Adam & Eve would have known this.
2. Do not misuse the name of God. Again, implicit - if He is your creator, you don't abuse Him in any way. Again, Adam & Eve would have known this.
3. Sabbath day. Did not come into play until God gave it to Israel under Moses as a sign of a covenant between God and Israel. It is not a moral law.
4. Honor your father & mother: This is implied because they are the ones who brought you into the world, who nourished you until you were able to function on your own, and provided you with training to go into the world. You are also the result of God's command to the parents to be fruitful and multiply.
5. Do not murder. Originally implicit because Cain knew he did wrong by killing Abel. When Noah stepped off the Ark he was told capital punishment would be the consequences for murder (Genesis 9:6). Noah was the federal head of all civilization to follow.
6. Do not commit adultery. Implicit in the institution of marriage where God said the TWO shall be one, which means anyone coming between them violates that oneness.
7. Do not steal. This is certainly a moral code that God would plant in everyone. In no other way could there be peace and love between people.
8. Do not bear false witness against your neighbor. If Adam and Eve didn't have this one planted in them, they quickly learned the consequences when the serpent (Satan) was punished for bearing false witness against God.
9 and 10 are disputed as to how they split, but they both deal with coveting something that is not yours to have. Again, if this was not implanted in Adam's and Eve's hearts, then they immediately recognized the penalty for coveting when they coveted and ate of the fruit which was not theirs to have.
Notice how all but one of these commands were either implicit, or given before Abraham, meaning they were given to the entire world, which is why these are the ones continually mentioned in the New Testament as being in force for all mankind. But the Sabbath wasn't before Moses and was not for anyone but Israel, which is why Paul, in Col. 2:16-17, said to let no one judge you in regards to a Sabbath. It may also tell us why Jesus made a point to say that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man (Mark. 2:27). Notice also how commands 1 & 2 are about our relationship with God, while 4-10 are about our relationship with each other. Number 3, the Sabbath, is not about either one; it is about a sign of a covenant between Israel and God.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the Sabbath. As pointed out above, the very first time the word Sabbath is mentioned is Exodus 16:23-30 when God gives it to Israel as a day of rest. The next time Sabbath is mentioned is in the Ten Commandments; it is here that God explains why He chose the 7th day as a Sabbath for Israel; because God rested from His creative work on the 7th day. (This use of the 7th day of creation is given as the reason for the choice of that day, not to say that a Sabbath day existed prior to the Mosaic Law.)
So then, just what is the Sabbath? It is called a sign of the covenant between God and Israel in Exod. 31:12-17 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 Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever. In Deut. 5:15 we are given the reason for this covenant: Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. No one else was brought out of Egypt so this cannot refer to anyone but Israel. Nehemiah 9:14 says, You made known to them [Israel] your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. Who did Nehemiah say God gave the Sabbath and laws to? ISRAEL! Ezekiel 20:12 says, Also I gave them [Israel] my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy. Go 8 verses farther and He says, Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us.
Scripture makes it very clear that the Sabbath is a sign of a covenant between God and Israel. No one else has that covenant that God has with Israel, His chosen people whose job it was to tell the world about the one true God (Exod. 15; Is.42:6; Acts 13:47; Rom. 2:17-20, 3:2).
What about the Sabbath for the Christian? Since it was not known before the Law, and since it is part of the Law, and since the Law was given only to Israel, this would mean the Christian, or any Gentile, was never under command to keep the Sabbath. And since it is a sign between God and the nation of Israel, and Christians are not Israel, Christians are not part of the covenant which the Sabbath signifies. (An analogy would be my wedding ring being a sign of a covenant between me and my wife - no other woman could wear my wife’s ring because another woman would not be a part of our covenant.)
Is Sunday the Christian “Sabbath”? Absolutely not. The Christian has no Sabbath except the Sabbath rest in Jesus (Heb. 4). Sunday was set aside by the first Church as a day of worship and remembering Jesus’ resurrection on the first day of the week (which began sundown Saturday, which is most likely when Jesus rose - Saturday evening, not Sunday morning, since He was already gone when the disciples arrived at the tomb that morning). The Bible never said this day of fellowship, breaking the bread and worship, was a Christian “Sabbath.”
The meeting on the 1st day of the week was also Saturday evening originally as shown by Acts 20:7-12. Tradition led to meetings on Sunday morning (most likely during the early 4th century under Constantine), but Scripture does not designate any specific day to meet. Heb. 10:24-25 just says not to forsake the meeting, it never says how often to meet or what days to meet. Although tradition has set Sunday for the most part, any day of the week is fine by Scripture. It is a Romans 14 issue.
Jesus came to perfectly fulfill the requirements of the Mosaic Law and, by doing so, He made them inoperative/not in effect (Rom. 7:1-6). In fact, Romans and Galatians both go into discussions about the Mosaic Law being null and void. Being part of the Law, this voids the Ten Commandments, per se, which would include the command to remember the Sabbath. This does not render the law written on our hearts (what could be called a moral law) ineffective because all the moral laws - not the Sabbath law - outlined in the Decalogue are reiterated in the New Testament teachings. (And remember, Paul specifically states that no one is to be judged in regards to a Sabbath Day.)
The Sabbath was to be kept as a day of remembrance by doing no work on it. It was not a day of worship, which is where so many Sabbath-followers make their biggest mistake. There has never been any command by God to choose any day for worship because we are to worship him every day. God said to ISRAEL to remember the Sabbath because it was a sign of the covenant which showed they were set apart for His service - made holy - because He brought them out of Egypt.
One final note for those who claim we must keep the Sabbath: if you demand this, then keep it from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday and obey all the laws laid down for the Jew in relation to the Sabbath. If you claim Sunday is the new Sabbath, then you still need to obey the laws of the Sabbath. Since there are no denominations who do all the requirements of the Sabbath, then anyone demanding Sabbath-keeping who doesn’t keep the letter of the Law, is being hypocritical from the “git-go.”
Christians have their Sabbath in Christ (as do the Jews, but they don’t know it).
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