Queries and Explications

What is the Sabbath of Colossians 2:14-16?


"The Seventh Day Adventists asked me if I have evidence from Colossians 2:14-16 that the Sabbath day is the weekly Sabbath? What is your direct answer to this question?"

L.A. Mott said, "Now look at Col. 2:14: 'Christ blotted) out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.' Read the statement in its context. In three different ways Paul asserts that something called the 'handwriting of ordinances ' was abolished: (1) Christ blotted it out. (2) He took it out of the way. (3) He nailed it to the cross. So, it is dead. The cross that killed Jesus also killed the handwriting or ordinances. It is no longer in force.

"Verse 16 identifies the handwriting of ordinances: 'Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect to an holyday, or of the new moon, or of Sabbath (days).' The reference is to ordinances of the law of Moses. The point of this statement is that since the handwriting of ordinances has been abolished, its contents are not to be made a basis of judgment. The observance of these ordinances is no ground for approval; the non-observance is no ground for condemnation.

"Paul told the Corinthians to 'judge them that are within' and to withdraw from a certain sinner (1 Cor. 5:12). But the basis of judgment is the teaching of the apostles (2 Thess. 3:6)--not that handwriting of ordinances which was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14, 16).

"Sabbatarians--those who observe the Sabbath, the seventh rather than the first day of the week (Ex. 20:8-11)--disregard Paul's plain statement by making the Sabbath a basis of judgment, approving those who keep it and condemning as sinners those who do not keep it. But they claim that Col. 2:16 refers to certain annual Sabbath of the Jews rather than the weekly Sabbath....

"The word Sabbath appears in 53 verses of the New Testament. In the first 52 there is no debate, the Sabbatarians acknowledging that the reference is to the weekly Sabbath. But they insist that the last one, Col. 2:16, cannot refer to the weekly Sabbath. One can understand why. Col. 2:16 is the only one of those references that says the Sabbath is not binding. So Sabbatarians must either give up their error concerning Sabbath keeping or get rid of this verse. Their regard for their error causes them to do the latter. So they assert that Col. 2:16 does not refer to the weekly Sabbath, even though they are going contrary to the uniform usage of the word Sabbath in the New Testament.

"But the evasion fails. 'Sabbath' cannot refer to the annual Sabbath for the simple reasons that the annual Sabbath are included under another heading in this verse, the term 'holyday.' The Greek noun heorte means a feast, feast-day, or festival, and is translated 'feast day' in the American Standard Version.

"Certain annual holy days were referred to as Sabbath in the Old Testament (cf. Lev. 16:31). But they were also called feasts. The statement in Lev. 23:4, 'These (are) the feasts of the Lord,...,' is followed by references to the passover, Pentecost, feast of trumpets, the day of atonement, and the feast of tabernacles. Then in vv. 37, 38 these feasts are distinguished from the weekly Sabbath: 'These (are) the feasts of the Lord,...' Thus the annual holydays were sometimes referred to as Sabbath, but when the annual Sabbath were distinguished from the weekly Sabbath the annual Sabbath were called feasts and the weekly Sabbath were called Sabbath.

"That is exactly according to the New Testament usage. The New Testament makes frequent reference to the annual holy days, but it refers to them as feasts (heorte), not Sabbath. Thus: 'feast of the passover' (Lk. 2:41; 22:1; John 6:4; 13:1) and 'feast of tabernacles' (John 7:2).

"In Col. 2:16 'holyday' or 'feast day (heorte) is the term for annual holy days. As everyone can see, the term 'new moon' refers to the monthly holy day. And just as obviously, the term 'Sabbath' refers to the weekly Sabbath, just as it does in every other New Testament passage where it occurs" (L.A. Mott, Jr., "The Abolition Of The Old Covenant," 4-6).

The phrase used by Paul in Colossians 2:16 is never used anywhere in the Bible except to refer to the regular weekly Sabbath (Cf. Matt. 12:1; 28:1; Mk. 1:21; Lk. 4:16; Acts 13:14; 16:13). Let the Sabbatarians dispute and refute that if they will. As a matter of fact, the Septuagint version, the Greek Old Testament, the fourth commandment uses the very same expression found in Colossians 2:16 to refer to the weekly Sabbath, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8). See also Exodus 35:2; Leviticus 23:37, 38; 24:8; Numbers 15:32; Deuteronomy 5:12; Isaiah 58:13.

Ron Halbrook said, "The Adventists quibble on Col. 2:14-17 by saying ' the sabbath days being plural refers only to certain 'ceremonial' sabbaths and not to 'the sabbath as such. But the plural encompasses all the Sabbath observances appointed, as can be seen from Exodus 31:12-18 ('sabbaths' and 'the sabbath' used interchangeably). The discussion by Jesus in Matt. 12:1-8, a proof text used by Sabbatarians, uses both the plural and singular forms (cf. vv.10-13). Jesus was Lord of David, Lord of Moses, and certainly 'Lord even of the sabbath day.' Being born 'under the law,' He kept it perfectly (Gal. 4:4); then He 'took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross'" (Ron Halbrook, Truth Magazine, 22,1, 21-25, 1/5/78).

We will not, therefore, be judged by our Adventist friends. They, however, are condemned by the text of Colossians 2:14-16. This is especially true in view of Galatians 5:1-6. From that text, if one in Christ seeks to be justified by the law: (1) He is entangled in a yoke of bondage; (2) Christ profits him nothing; (3) He is debtor to do the whole law, obligated to keep it all; (4) Christ becomes of no effect unto him; (5) He is "fallen from grace."

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