Anti-Sabbath Arguments: Are They Really Right?by Steve Wohlberg
"The Sabbath was only for Israel": Some quote the following words to prove that the Sabbath was given as a sign between God and Israel only, but not for the Church: "Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily My Sabbaths you shall keep ... it is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested." Exodus 31:13, 17. First, notice that God called the Sabbath "My Sabbaths," not Israelitish Sabbaths. Second, the Sabbath will endure "forever." Third, God’s reason for giving the Sabbath goes back to Creation Week (see Gen. 1; 2:1-3), long before Israel existed. Thus the Sabbath is God’s Day, lasts forever, and was established before any Jews existed. Isaiah later said that Gentiles who joined the Jews were also to keep the Sabbath. Isaiah 56:6, 7. Paul wrote this to the Gentiles: "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed." Galatians 3:29. According to the New Testament, Gentiles are "grafted in" (Romans 11:17) and become part of Israel. Therefore the Sabbath becomes a sign for them, too. Gentiles in the book of Acts kept the Sabbath. See Acts 13:42-44. The Ten Commandments apply to everyone, not just Jews (see Romans 3:19). Neither the word, "Jew," nor the word, "Israel," is found in any of the Ten Commandments.
Is the seventh-day Sabbath the same as "the sabbaths which are a shadow of things to come" in Colossians 2:14-17?: This is one of the most misunderstood passages in the New Testament. Note the context: Paul wrote, "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us ... nailing it to his cross" (verse 14, KJV). The "handwriting of ordinances" that was "blotted out" and nailed to the cross was not the Ten Commandments, which were not written by any man’s hand, but with "the finger of God" (see Ex. 31:18). It was the ceremonial law, with its animal sacrifices, that was written by the hand of Moses. This "handwriting" was a continual witness "against" Israel (see Deut. 31:24?26) because its very existence testified that Israel had broken the Ten Commandments. That's why they needed to offer lambs. When Jesus died, this entire system of ceremonial sacrifices was "blotted out."
"Therefore," wrote Paul in Colossians 2:16, "Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come." Verses 16, 17. The "meat," "drink," "holy day[s]," and "sabbath days" referred to in this text are the seven annual Jewish "feasts” (Passover, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, etc) with their "meat offerings" and "drink offerings" (see Lev. 23:37, 38). Those yearly Jewish feast days, along with their blood offerings, were also called "sabbaths" (see Lev. 23:24, 32, 37, 38), but they were very different from the seventh-day creation Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Paul referred to those annual "sabbaths" as "shadows" because their ceremonies and sacrifices pointed forward to Jesus Christ and were abolished when He died on the cross. Hebrews 10:1 specifically states that it was the ceremonial law, written by the hand of Moses, with its annual feasts and bloody sacrifices that was a "shadow," not the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments are not the least bit shadowy. They point forward to nothing, but reveal God’s standard of character for the human race. The seventh-day Sabbath of the fourth commandment is also not a type or shadow, for instead of pointing forward to the death of Jesus, it points back to Creation Week. See Exod. 20:8-11. Ever unchangeable, it remains in the New Testament, beyond the cross. See Luke 23:56. Paul continued to keep this Sabbath. See Acts 16:13.
Methodist founder John Wesley declared the truth when he wrote: "This 'handwriting of ordinances' our Lord did blot out, take away, and nail to His cross (Colossians 2:14). But the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments, and enforced by the prophets, He did not take away... The moral law stands on an entirely different foundation from the ceremonial or ritual law… Every part of this law must remain in force upon all mankind and in all ages." John Wesley, Sermons on Several Occasions, 2-Vol. Edition, Vol. I, pages 221-222.
What about "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike" (Romans 14:5)?: Many apply this to keeping either the Sabbath or Sunday, but this is incorrect. To begin with, neither "Sabbath" nor "Sunday" is found in the entire chapter. The chapter begins, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations." Romans 14:1 (KJV). The NKJV reads, "disputes over doubtful things." Thus the initial context of Romans 14 is "doubtful things," and is not a discussion of the Ten Commandments. The "Big Ten" are not "doubtful," but exceedingly clear, written with the finger of God on two tables of stone.
The "weak" brother "eats" some things and "esteems one day above another" while the strong brother believes that he may "eat all things" and "esteems every day alike." Romans 14:2, 5. The early Church was made up of Jewish believers and Gentile converts. Although Paul did not specify what "days" he was referring to, he was probably talking about certain Jewish fast or feast days (Luke 18:12), and certain pagan feast days when people were "eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols." 1 Corinthians 8:4.
On a pagan feast day a "strong" Jew who knew that "an idol is nothing” and who was hungry would have no scruples about eating "meat in an idol’s temple." See 1 Cor. 8:4, 10. Paul warned these "strong" Jewish believers, "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak [the Gentile convert from idolatry]. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple [on a pagan feast day], shall not the conscience of him that is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish [if he is drawn back to idolatry], for whom Christ died. But when ye sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth." 1 Corinthians 8:9-13.
THERE IS NO EVIDENCE in either Romans 14 or 1 Corinthians 8 (a parallel reference) that the discussion about the "weak" and the strong had anything to do with the Sabbath. God never said, "One man may choose to esteem My Sabbaths, while another man may choose to esteem Sunday, or Tuesday, or every day alike." He hasn’t left it up to us to "pick a day, any day." Rather, He clearly commanded, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy ... the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God." Exodus 20:8, 10. The same book of Romans is very clear, "by the law is the knowledge of sin." Romans 3:20; 7:7, 12. There is nothing doubtful about God’s Law.
"Ye observe days, and months, and times and years. I am afraid of you" (Galatians 4:10,11): It is amazing that some people apply Paul’s words to the Sabbath, but never to Sunday. As with Romans 14, a close look at the text reveals that Paul was not talking about either the Sabbath or Sunday. The context refers to the past pagan life of those Galatians converts: "Then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now ... how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage. Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years." Verses 8-10.
Paul rebuked his Galatian converts for turning "again" to idolatry, which means they were also slipping back into the observance of pagan "days, months, times and years." Thus the devil sought to draw them back to their old ways. On the opposite side, the book of Galatians reveals that those new converts were also under attack from misguided Jewish believers who wanted every Gentile to "be circumcised" and "to keep the law of Moses" (Acts 15:1, 5; Gal. 2:3, 4), which would include the observance of the yearly feasts of the ceremonial law (Passover, Feast of Tabernacles, etc.) which Paul plainly stated in Colossians 2:14-17 were nailed to the cross. Whichever extreme the Galatians were being tempted into, the "weak and beggarly elements" leading to "bondage" (Gal. 4:9) were not the Ten Commandments, for the New Testament identifies the Ten Commandment law as "the royal law ... the law of liberty." James 2:8-12. To apply Galatians 4:10 to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is to twist the Scriptures. See 2 Peter 3:16.
"But Jesus Christ rose on Sunday!": Praise the Lord! But let’s not use Jesus Christ’s resurrection as an excuse for breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Jesus Himself never mentioned Sunday observance. The New Testament states that God established Bible baptism as His special ceremony to commemorate the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son (see Romans 6:4), not Sunday observance. Keeping Sunday as a holy day in honor of Jesus Christ’s resurrection has no Scriptural support.
"But we are 'not under the law, but under grace'" (Romans 6:14)!: This is absolutely true. But the very next verse continues, "What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." Romans 6:15. "Sin is the transgression of the law." 1 John 3:4. To interpret being "under grace" as a license to keep breaking any one of the Ten Commandments perverts Paul’s words. See also Romans 3:31 and 6:1, 2. Jesus Christ came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), not in them.
For more information, read Truth Left Behind by Steve Wohlberg, Sunday: The Origin of Its Observance in the Christian Church, by E.J. Wagonner, or watch the fascinating 5-part TV documentary, The Seventh-day: Revelations from the Lost Pages of History (view trailer), produced by LLT Productions. All three are now available from White Horse Media. www.whitehorsemedia.com. 1-800-78-BIBLE.