The Sabbath Day

Was The Sabbath Day Annulled?

Seventh-day Sabbath opponents contend that no record exists of anybody observing the Sabbath from creation to the time of Exodus 16, and that the historical silence proves that man did not observe it before Moses’ lifetime. The Book of Acts, for example, contains no record of any meeting to break bread after the Pentecost meeting of Acts 2 until the one mentioned in Acts 20. Therefore, according to their argument, the Christian church did not assemble for communication on the first day of the week for a space of about twenty-seven years.

            In the effort to show that the Sabbath Day had no existence before the Exodus, some quote a passage in Nehemiah which says, “And thou madest know unto them (the Israelites) thy holy Sabbath.” (See Nehemiah 9:13,14.) They claim that the reference indicates that the Hebrews did not know about the Sabbath Day before then, and that consequently it had not existed before the Exodus. Yet in Ezekiel 20:5 we find the statement, “And I made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt.” Does that mean before He made Himself “known” to the Hebrews in Egypt God had no existence? The fact that while they suffered in Egyptian slavery they had forgotten. This does not imply that God had no existence prior to that time. And the fact that for the same reason they did not remember to observe the Sabbath does not mean that it had no previous existence. Jesus stated that “the Sabbath was made for man.” (Mark 2:27) The term “man” means more than just the Hebrews. It includes every human being from the time of Adam onward.

            The law of the Ten Commandments antedated sin’s entrance into the world. If there had been no law, there could have been no sin. “For where no law is, there is no transgression.” (Romans 4:15) “Sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Romans 5:13) “Sin is the transgression of the law.” For by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) “Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law,” Paul writes, “for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (Romans 7:7) What law commands us not to covet? The Ten Commandments. James also explains that “the whole law” of the Decalogue is the law we violate, and the one which condemns us when we sin (James 2:10-12).

            At times the allegation has arisen that there exists not one single passage in the whole Bible that intimates that a Gentile was even commanded to keep the Sabbath Day. The Old Testament Book of Isaiah contains several promises for the non-Israelite who accepts God as his Lord and keeps the Sabbath. “Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it: that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.” “Also the sons of the stranger that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant even then will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer.” (Isaiah 56:2,6,7) The passage speaks of “strangers”—Gentiles—and not of just one, but “every one,” every Gentile in the world. It does not speak of them “that join themselves to the Israelites.” Instead, it refers to all “that join themselves to the Lord.” Acts 13:42,44, 17:1-4, and 18:4,11 contain specific instances of non Israelites keeping the Sabbath Day in New Testament times.

            Those who reject the Sabbath Day often labor under the erroneous impression that the laws of God are the same thing. The law of God is the one which He wrote in the form of the Ten Commandments with His own finger on the tables of stone. (Exodus 24:12; 31:18; 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13; 5:22; 10:2,4) God both spoke and wrote the Ten Commandments. “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” He said centuries later. (Psalm 89:34) The statement shows that the character of God is unalterable and that He never breaks a promise. Moses placed the sacred law in the ark under the mercy seat in the sanctuary. (Exodus 25:16, 21; 31:18; 40:20; Deuteronomy 10:1-5) The tablets of the Ten Commandments were the only law kept inside the ark. (1st King 8:9)

            In the Old Testament times we faced death by stoning for breaking the Sabbath. They also met the same fate for telling lies (Deuteronomy 19:15-21), for stalking (Joshua 7:10-25), for killing (Leviticus 24:17), for blaspheming (Leviticus 24:16), and for dishonoring their parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Leviticus 20:9). It is never right for men to force God’s laws or others, but is it all right now for people to commit such acts because God does not at once put to death those who do them? The fact is that the death penalty for sin has not ended. Instead, God postpones the execution of it upon the disobedient until a day of final judgment. Sin is still “the transgression of the law” (1st John 3:4), and “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4,20) Death will be the lot of the wicked when the time shall come to punish them. (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13, Revelation 21:8)

            If the Ten Commandments apply only to the Israelites then all other men may freely have other gods, worship images, blaspheme, dishonor their parents, slay their enemies, commit adultery, steal, and lie as they please without guilt. Paul asks, “Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” (Romans 6:15) “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid.” (Romans 3:31)

            Some say they don’t keep the Sabbath Day because we are not under the law. A person may be “under the law” in two senses. One is when the law condemns the individual because he has broken it. (Romans 3:9,19) Also he may be under obligation to the law in that he must obey it. (Revelation 22:114) Suppose a man has committed a murder and thus broken the law of the state. The authorities arrest him. Being a transgressor, he is under the law, that is under its condemnation. Then the governor of the state pardons him. Can he go out and say, “Now I am not under the law, and I am free to go out and kill again?” No. Although the law no longer condemns him for having broken it, he still has an obligation to obey it. Breaking the law is still wrong but mercy brought grace to take your place. Paul says that when one is not under law, but under grace, the law no longer passes sentence on him. (Romans 8:1-4) In Romans 6:15 Paul asks, “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” He emphasizes the same thought in Romans 3:31, saying, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Certainly a follower of Christ does not keep on sinning—breaking God’s holy law—because he is not under the law but under grace. The grace of God manifest to us through Christ has brought us pardon for our violation of God’s principles. Christ freed man from the law’s claim on him, man no longer lives under a divine death penalty. Under grace, we must not continue to break God’s law. To do so is to reject grace, to nullify what He did on the cross.

            Others have claimed that by the words “all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19,20) Jesus meant that we should consider as binding only the things which He spoke while personally with the disciples. Is this true? Did He command us to keep the Sabbath Day?