Tag Archives: law

Do the Sabbath requirements of Old Testament Law carry over to Sunday?

In an effort to obey the Bible’s teachings about worship and rest, some Christians have transferred many of the Old Testament Sabbath[1] requirements to Sunday. For those of us who are wondering whether such a practice is necessary or even advisable, it might help to think about the historical differences between Israel and the Church.

The Sabbath was given to Israel as a symbol of their special relationship with God[2]. When the Christian church came into existence, Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians had no weekly day of rest or worship. Because of work and societal demands, most early Christians couldn’t set Sunday aside as a “day of rest” or substitute Sabbath. Further, the New Testament offered no support for transferring Sabbath practices or regulations to Sunday. It simply declared Sunday as the day the followers of Christ meet in honor of His resurrection.[3]

Consequently, Christians in the Roman Empire carried on their normal occupations even while setting time aside for worship and fellowship on Sunday. These circumstances continued until the beginning of the 4th century when Constantine, the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity, made Sunday a special day of rest and worship.

Even though Sabbath restrictions together with the broader Law of Moses were not passed on to the Church (Galatians 3:24–25), some principles of dedicated times of rest and worship may still apply. Many followers of Christ believe that setting aside the day that the apostles gathered for worship—Sunday—as a special day for spiritual refreshment is a God-honoring practice.[4]

[1] To this day Jewish people worship on the 7th day of the week—Saturday. Exodus 20:8 says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (niv)

[2] Exodus 31:13–17

[3] Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and other church fathers attribute Sunday worship to the fact that Christ was resurrected on the first day of the week. This isn’t surprising, not only because of the symbolism involved with the day of our Lord’s resurrection, but because the Lord himself emphasized Sunday rather than the Sabbath by choosing it as the day in which he met with his disciples in his post-resurrection appearances (John 20:19–29; Luke 24; Mark 16). Further, Sunday was the day the Holy Spirit manifested himself and the Church was born (Acts 2).

[4] In The Lost World of Genesis One, Old Testament Professor John H. Walton describes how after 6 days of setting creation in order, God took up residence in His cosmic temple on the 7th day. God is now “resting,” enthroned in His rightful place (Psalm 132:7-8,13-14) as the active Lord and governor of the universe.

“If we have to be reminded or coerced to observe it, it ceases to serve its function. Sabbath isn’t the sort of thing that should have to be regulated by rules. It is the way that we acknowledge that God is on the throne, that this world is his world, that our time is his gift to us. It is ‘big picture’ time. And the big picture is not me, my family, my country, my world, or even the history of my world. The big picture is God. If the Sabbath has its total focus in recognition of God, it would detract considerably if he had to tell us what to do. Be creative! Do whatever will reflect your love, appreciation, respect and awe of the God of all the cosmos. (This is the thrust of Isaiah 58:13-14.)”  The Lost World of Genesis One, p. 146.

 

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Are the Ten Commandments for Christians?

The Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, was given to the people of Israel (Exodus 20:1-17), not Gentiles. It included both moral principles and ceremonial laws and regulations. It was intended to bring awareness of sin and guilt (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7-13; 1 Timothy 1:7-11), not to be a way of earning salvation. (Hebrews 11 explains how Abraham was saved by faith long before the law was given through Moses.)

The Jews referred to the Ten Commandments as “the ten words” (Deuteronomy 4:13). They were the basis of the entire Mosaic system, and as such they contain principles that remain the foundation of Christian ethics.

Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law (Romans 5:5; 8:1-4), so that Christians are no longer under the external Law of Moses (Galatians 3:1-14; Colossians 2:8-17). The Ten Commandments contain elements of ceremonial law. Christians aren’t required to follow these. Yet, when obedient to the Holy Spirit, Christians manifest God’s love and righteousness in harmony with the Ten Commandments’ moral principles (Romans 13:8-10).1

  1. The works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit listed by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5 demonstrate clearly how impossible it would be to live a Spirit-filled life while violating the moral principles within the Ten Commandments. Back To Article
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Does James 2:10 imply that God doesn’t consider some sins more serious than others?

James 2:10 states: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble at one point, he is guilty of all” (nkjv).

Some people have mistakenly thought that this verse means that all sins are equal in God’s view, that no sins are worse than others.

In the Old Testament, there were sacrifices to atone for sins done in ignorance or through weakness. But deliberate, premeditated transgressions were a more serious category of sin for which the law couldn’t atone (Hebrews 10). People who committed such sins (Leviticus 6:1-2; 10:1-2; 20:1-27; Numbers 15:32-35; 16:26-32) either had to make restitution (as in the cases of theft or lying) or be put to death (as in the cases of adultery, violating the Sabbath, cursing one’s parents). When David premeditatedly committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, he wrote, “You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; . . . The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:16-17 nkjv). David knew that no sacrifice could atone for what he did, and that he could only, like other Old Testament believers who committed such sins, cast himself on God’s mercy. The law provided no forgiveness. He needed grace.

Paul’s declaration in Romans 2 that God will judge “according to works,” “light,” and “opportunity” implies that there are degrees of guilt, as did Jesus’ declaration that rejecting Him and His gospel was a more serious sin than the sin of Sodom (Matthew 10:15; 11:23-24). If there are no degrees of sin, then it would be pointless to struggle to seek the lesser of two evils in the kinds of situations we all sometimes face.

What James is confronting in this verse is the self-righteous attitude that we don’t depend as much on God’s grace as someone who has committed more obvious and heinous kinds of sin. This kind of thinking is self-deceiving and encourages complacency. Any violation of the law is enough to keep us from being justified by the law’s standards. A person who doesn’t murder or commit adultery but shows partiality to the rich should not feel self-righteous. He is a lawbreaker too. The function of the law is not to justify but to bring awareness of sin (Romans 4:14-16; 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 15:56). We should be humbled and conscience-stricken by the many sins we do commit, and not feel superior to those who sin in ways we don’t.

 

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Why Did Jesus Condemn the Self-Righteousness of the Pharisees?

Jesus condemned the Pharisees’ self-righteous hypocrisy because it blinded them from seeing their need for repentance and a Savior.

Many Pharisees prided themselves in their strict avoidance of obvious, outward sin. But they refused to look inside themselves and acknowledge the presence of inner sin that didn’t fall within the boundaries of their man-made rules. Jesus knew that in spite of their obsession with outward perfection, they willfully resisted consciousness of their inner corruption and need for grace:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:25-28 NKJV).

Jesus didn’t associate with “known sinners” like tax collectors because He minimized their sin ( Luke 19:1-10 ). He freely associated with them because He knew that they were more open to repentance.

Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:10-13 NKJV).

“Known sinners” weren’t full of self-righteous pride, deliberately concealing their hidden sins behind a legalistic façade of “righteousness.” Jesus was keenly ironic when He said, “I didn’t come to call the righteous to repentance.” He knew that the Pharisees weren’t righteous, but their pretense of righteousness kept them from accepting the only remedy for their condition — repentance and faith in Him. The obvious sins of “public sinners” made them more likely to repent and look to Jesus for the answers they needed.

We are all sinners, both inwardly and outwardly. Although we may not be notorious “public sinners,” we all share a fallen nature and are often controlled by the “flesh” — the “sin principle” — within us (Romans 8). Jesus’ stern warnings to the hypocritical Pharisees make it clear that sin we ignore and deny is no less serious in its effects than the sin of the public sinner.

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How Could Old Testament People Be Saved?

People have always been saved by their faith in God rather than by merit earned through good works ( Hebrews 11:6 ).

The Bible is clear that Abraham, father of the Jewish people, was saved by faith. The Scriptures say, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” ( Romans 4:3 ). Although Abraham didn’t know the exact way that God would one day provide a Savior, he made a profound statement about God’s ability to provide a substitute as he prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah ( Genesis 22:8 ).

The principle of salvation by faith continued under the Mosaic law. Because no one could perfectly satisfy the law’s demands, the law brought awareness of human sin and helplessness ( Romans 3:9-23; 7:7-14 ; Galatians 3:19-25 ). Its provisions for animal sacrifice were a further revelation of the seriousness and ugliness of sin. But the provision for sacrifice also pointed forward to Calvary and God’s provision of grace. David, who lived under the law 1,000 years before Christ, clearly knew the power of God’s grace, experiencing forgiveness and salvation through faith ( Psalm 32:1-5 ; Romans 4:6-8 ).

Faith in God always involved confidence that God would somehow provide for the forgiveness of sins. Faith always anticipated the coming of Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf. Old Testament believers offered sacrifices as an expression of their faith. By themselves, sacrificial offerings could never take away sin. When they were offered in faith, however, God accepted them because they pointed to Jesus Christ, the one sacrifice worthy to atone for all the sins of the world ( Hebrews 10:1-17 ).

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