Confusion on the Covenants
What About the Sabbath?

Steven F. Deaton


Some of our religious friends and neighbors, especially the Seventh Day Adventists, contend for the observance of the Sabbath. They make the claim that one who follows the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ must keep the seventh day as a day of rest. We will show from the inspired word of God that Christians are not required to consecrate the Sabbath. Also, we will look at how this subject presents great difficulty to our brethren who hold the "one covenant" position.

Israel Only

The first hint of man keeping the Sabbath, a day of rest on the seventh day by commandment of God, is found shortly after Israel departed from Egypt.

Prior to this time there is a total absence of any command, example, or necessary inference that man was required to observe the seventh day as a day of rest!

Later, as God gives the ten commandments he says,

This command was given exclusively to the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai. It was not given prior to this time, nor was it given to any other people. Proof [from the book of Jehovah]:

These passages from the Bible show: 1. The children of Israel were commanded to keep the Sabbath. 2. The penalty for violating the Sabbath was death. 3. The Sabbath was for a sign between God and Israel. 4. God made known the Sabbath at Sinai. God did not make the seventh day a sign between himself and the Egyptians, Canaanites, or anyone else other than the Jews! God did not make known the Sabbath command prior to Sinai! Will anyone who advocates keeping the Sabbath also vigorously enforce the penalty for breaking it? If not, why not?

Hebrews 4:4-9

Some may look to the book of Hebrews (4:4-9) in an attempt to support Sabbath keeping. It says,

Some will try to say that the "rest" of our passage is the Sabbath rest. Is it true? When we look at the context, and related passages, we will see that the "rest" of Hebrews 4:9, is not the "Sabbath rest," but the final "rest" promised to God's children (cf. Rev. 14:13).

First, read Hebrews 3, and notice the following points: 1. the contrast between Moses and Christ--Christ being far superior (vv. 1-5); 2. the necessity of remaining faithful (v. 6); 3. the example of Israel in the wilderness and an admonition not to be like them (vv. 7-19). If you know the history of Israel, you will readily recognize the events to which our passage refers--the rebellion and disbelief of the ten spies and Israel, along with God's subsequent wrath and punishment (Nub. 14). Remember, God had promised the land of Canaan to Israel, saying that when they were brought into it, they would have rest (Ex. 33:14). Therefore, when Hebrews 3:11 states that "they [Israel] shall not enter into my rest," it is referring to the fact that the majority of Israel would not, and did not, enter Canaan--the land of promise and rest (cf. Deut. 3:18-20).

Now, at the beginning of Hebrews 4, the writer exhorts us to "fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it" (v. 1). Israel was promised rest in Canaan, but failed to enter because of unbelief and rebellion. Therefore, as the Christian has been promised spiritual Canaan, heaven, he needs to be careful that he does not disbelieve or rebel.

That the "rest" of chapter 4:9 does not refer to the Sabbath rest, is conclusive in light of Hebrews 4:3-4,

When God established the observance of the Sabbath rest, He pointed back to His rest on the seventh day of creation (Ex. 20:8-11). This Sabbath "rest" is something which the Israelites HAD received!

In fact, Israel was commanded to put a man to death for breaking the Sabbath rest (Num. 15:32-36). This all shows that Israel had received the Sabbath rest, therefore it is not the "rest" which remained to be given (Heb. 4:6).

Well, if the Sabbath is not the "rest" under consideration, what is? Notice Hebrews 4:5-9,

Like chapter 3:7-11, the writer here quotes from Psalm 95:7-11. His point is that inasmuch as David warned the people of his day not to harden their hearts, lest they not enter into God's rest, that there is another "rest" besides that of the promised land. That is, David and his contemporaries enjoyed the possession of Canaan, the land of promise and rest, yet he admonished his fellow citizens not to become hardened and thus be excluded from God's rest--spiritual rest in heaven. Since David said this, there obviously remains a "rest" to the people of God (Heb. 4:9). This is not the Sabbath rest, nor the land of rest, but a "rest" for the soul. Hence, the Hebrew writer goes on to say,

Christians, too, need to be diligent not to harden their hearts against God, His promises, and His commands, or we will not enter that true "rest!"

Jesus & The Sabbath

There may be some who look to Jesus as one who kept the Sabbath and therefore, in following his example, we too must keep the Sabbath (Lk. 4:16, 31; 13:10). No doubt, the Lord is our example, but, it must be kept in mind, he was born and lived "under the law" (Gal. 4:4). He observed ALL of the law! He kept the feast of the Passover (Lk. 22:7-14). So, should we keep the Passover too? When Christ died, he nailed the old law, the law of Moses, to the cross (Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:14-16). The ministration of death, which included the commandments written on the tables of stone, was done away, and the ministration of life was established when Jesus died and the gospel was proclaimed (2 Cor. 3:3-11; Col. 2:14; Acts 2; Heb. 8:6; 10:9).

Difficulties For "One Covenant" Brethren

If it be true, as some contend, that Jesus simply nailed sin to the cross--no law--then it follows that we are still obligated to keep the Sabbath. If not, why not? The Sabbath was not strictly "ceremonial" law, but was a part of the commands written and engraven on the tables of stone (2 Cor. 3:3; cf. Ex. 24:12; 31:18; Deut. 4:13). Our brethren who have strayed from truth by advocating "one covenant" will not and cannot debate a Seventh Day Adventist on this point! Do you say, "It is not in the new testament and therefore not binding"? What new testament, brother? You only believe in one testament! By the way, do you use the term new testament? STOP! for there can be no new without an old, and there is no old, when there is only one!!!

Conclusion

Observance of the Sabbath is not commanded in the New Covenant which was sealed by the blood of the Son of God. The "rest" to which we look is eternal in nature. Let us not turn back into denominational error by accepting the erroneous idea that there has only been "one covenant" and Jesus did not nail the old law to the cross, thus leading us to accept the old testament as binding.


e-mail this author at SFDeaton@compuserve.com

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