The Sabbath Removed

“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink or in respect of a new moon or a Sabbath which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is Christ’s” (Col. 2:16-17).

The Colossian writer tells us the Sabbath was a “shadow of things to come” and we are reminded that no man is to be judged in regard to the Sabbath. Controversy swirled around Jewish accusations that Jesus violated the Sabbath by His working miracles on that day. Controversy about the Sabbath continued through the early days of the church and on into the present day. Some sought to bind circumcision and Sabbath keeping on Gentiles who had never been under the law. The “Jerusalem conference” showed that circumcision was not to be bound on Gentiles; instructions of the Holy Spirit in the epistles taught that the Sabbath and the law of Moses also had ended. Still, many who profess to believe in Christ continue to bind upon their followers Sabbath keeping. Why?

While such teachers acknowledge the law was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14), they distinguish between “moral law” and “ceremonial law” insisting the moral law (the ten commandments) were given man from the beginning of creation while “ceremonial law” (circumcision, clean and unclean animals, etc.) was given by Moses at Sinai. They teach that “ceremonial law” was removed but the moral law (including the Sabbath) continues. In this teaching they err. Sabbath keeping was not bound upon any one until Moses gave the law on Mt. Sinai (Neh. 9:13-14).

These teachers distinguish between “the law of the Lord” and the “law of Moses” saying that the “law of the Lord” was God’s moral law, which law remains, but that the “law of Moses”, which included among many other things the rite of circumcision, was removed. The problem with their distinction is that it is not true. Yes, we read of “the law of the Lord” and “the law of Moses”, but the distinction these teachers seek to make between the two terms is unfounded. The two terms “law of Moses” and “law of the Lord” are interchangeable expressions. When Jesus was born, Mary observed the days of purification the “law of Moses” required (Luke 2:22), and then in the temple offered the “sacrifices according to that which is said in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtle doves …” (Lk. 2:37). Thus, Mary’s days of impurity, her offering to cleanse herself from her impurity is called “the law of Moses” once (Lk.2:22) and “the law of the Lord” three times (Lk. 2:23, 24, 49). The Holy Spirit referred to the same process as both “the law of Moses” and the “law of the Lord”. If those who bind Sabbath keeping today were correct in the distinction they make over “moral law” and “ceremonial law”, the Holy Spirit erred when He spoke of Mary doing the things she did “according to the law of the Lord”. Consistently the Holy Spirit should have described her actions as fulfilling “the law of Moses”.

On the other hand, when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees regarding divorce, Jesus said, “What did Moses command you?” (Mark 10:3). On another occasion Jesus said, “Moses said, honor thy father and thy mother” (Mk. 7:10). In both these passages Jesus’ referred to either the fifth commandment (“Honor thy father and thy mother”) or to the seventh commandment (“Thou shalt not commit adultery”). These two were of course both part of the ten commandments, yet Jesus attributed them to Moses. Those teachers who distinguish between “the law of the Lord” and “the law of Moses” must deal with the fact that Jesus was unaware of such a distinction, calling what these modern-day teachers would call “the law of the Lord”, “Moses said”.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians was written to churches with a large Gentile membership but which, through influences of Judaizing teachers, had begun practicing circumcision among other things (Gal. 4:10). In the letter’s fourth chapter, Paul gave an allegory of the two wives and two sons of Abraham. He said, “It is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid and one by the freewoman. Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh, but the son by the freewoman is born through promise. Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants; one from Mt. Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mt. Sinai in Arabia and answers unto the Jerusalem that now is, for she is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother … Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now. Howbeit, what saith the scriptures? Cast out the handmaid and her son, for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman” (Gal. 4:22-30). Christians are not sons of the handmaid, Hagar, the law, including the ten commandments. We are children of the free woman, Sarah; the New Covenant of Christ. Cast out the handmaid and her son. Cast out the law Moses gave at Sinai. Live by the law now revealed by the Son of God.

Jim McDonald