"SABBATH" AND LAW
"CIRCUMCISION" AND GRACE
1. "Sabbath" signifies "rest". God's spirit, through the angels, established the present habitable during six literal days. Genesis 1, Psalm 33v6; 103v20-22. God, in the angels, "rested...on the seventh day" - Genesis 2v1,2.
2. Under the law of Moses, the nation of Israel was forbidden to do any work on the seventh or sabbath day. Instead, it was to be a day which was consecrated to the Lord, Numbers 15v32-36, Deuteronomy 5v12-15.
3. In the Bible, TWO COVENANTS are revealed. The FIRST, or Mosaic covenant, was made with a nation, Israel. The SECOND, or Abrahamic covenant, was made with a man, Abraham, and subsequently "confirmed" (established, made sure) by Jesus Christ - Galatians 3v8,16,17, Romans 15v8. Because THIS covenant, founded upon the promises of God, SUPERSEDED the Mosaic, it was called the "new" covenant, which has replaced the "old", being a "better covenant, which was established upon better promises", Hebrews 8v6-13. See page 1.
The Mosaic covenant was "ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator" and "it was added because of transgressions" to convict Israelites of sin - see Galatians 3v19 & page 1. It was ratified at Sinai by "the blood of the covenant", which blood was from animal sacrifices - Exodus 24v1-8. Note "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" - Hebrews 10v4 - and the continual offerings proved it - v1-3.
However, the Abrahamic covenant relied not upon a mediator, but upon God Himself. This is clear from Galatians 3v20, which reads, omitting the words in italics (not in the original text) - "Now a mediator is not of one, but God is one" - i.e. the source of oneness in Christ, which is the very foundation of the new covenant - see here. This new covenant was made with "Abraham and his seed...not...as of many; but as of one...which is Christ" - v16. Consider 1st Corinthians 10v16,17 - "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread".
The new covenant was ratified, not with the blood of animals, "but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" - 1st Peter 1v19. "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" - Hebrews 10v14. Jesus said "For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" - Matthew 26v28.
And whereas under the law of Moses "they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death", Jesus Christ "is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them...made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec" - Hebrews 7v23,25; 6v20.
4. Any attempt to dissociate the ten commandments from the Mosaic or "old" covenant is firmly rebutted by the Bible. The ten commandments are termed "the tables of the covenant", Hebrews 9v4. See also Exodus 34v28, Deuteronomy 4v13; 5v1-21. The "ministration of death, written and engraven in stones...was...done away" - 2nd Corinthians 3v7.
5. The contention that only the "ceremonial" parts of the Mosaic law were done away with is thus denied by the Bible. The terms "law of Moses" and "law of the Lord", sometimes claimed to refer to the "ceremonial" and "moral" aspects respectively, are used INTERCHANGEABLY, and carry the same meaning - 2nd Chronicles 31v3, Numbers 31v21, Joshua 23v6-8, Luke 2v22-24, Malachi 4v4, etc. The ONE law of Moses, & all its parts, has been removed, and is not binding on believers today.
6. When did the sabbath law begin? Some propound the theory that a law was given shortly after Creation, in Eden. However, we search in vain for such a law. And nor can we find any scriptural records of anyone either keeping it, or being admonished for not keeping it, prior to the time of the Exodus.
It is true that the seventh day was "sanctified", Genesis 2v3, and this was recorded in connection with rest from the work of Creation, v2. This idea is taken up later at the giving of the sabbath law to Israel, Exodus 20v8-11, and related to the rest from bondage provided by God for His people.
Deuteronomy 5v12-15 - "And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and a stretched out arm: THEREFORE the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day". It is evident that here was a NEW COMMANDMENT, instituted to memorialize God's redemptive power.
Through lack of faith, the nation did not attain to that ultimate "rest" which God had in view, Hebrews 4v1-11, but believers today look forward to that "rest", v9. The fact that Israel had no knowledge of any sabbath law prior to its enactment by Moses is endorsed by Nehemiah 9v13,14 - "Thou...MADEST KNOWN unto them thy holy sabbath...BY THE HAND OF MOSES THY SERVANT". Indeed, Moses and the people needed instruction as to how the sabbath should be kept, Exodus 16v22-31, Numbers 15v32-36. The sabbath became "a sign between me (God) and the children of Israel", Exodus 31v17.
7. Some were EXEMPT from the sabbath law. These were the priests, who, according to Jesus "profane(d) the sabbath" and were "blameless", Matthew 12v5. Their work was doubled on that day, Numbers 28v1-10. The whole life of the priesthood was a continuous dedication to the service of God, and therefore no ceremonial rest on one day in seven was appropriate. The spirit of Isaiah 58v13 was to be theirs EVERY DAY, Psalm 1v1,2. Believers are called to be "a royal priesthood", 1st Peter 2v9. For believers to keep a literal one-day-in-seven observance would be ineffectual, and not according to the function of priests. Sabbath-keeping for justification is prohibited for believers - see item 11.
8. Jesus testified that when "circumcision", which was "of the fathers", clashed on a child's eighth day with the seventh day sabbath, circumcision TOOK THE PRECEDENCE, "that the law of Moses should not be broken", John 7v22,23. Therefore, if the sabbath is still binding today, so too should be circumcision! But this is not contended for by sabbatarians. The inescapable fact is that the law itself BORE WITNESS TO A SUPERIOR COVENANT - see item 3, i.e. that made with Abraham. Circumcision had been instituted as "a token (sign) of the covenant", Genesis 17v11, which God made with him and all believers.
9. Circumcision, being the "token" (sign) of a "better covenant", also pointed forward to A MORE PERFECT TIME TO COME. Peter tells us that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years", 2nd Peter 3v8. Based upon this principle, the seventh day sabbath pointed forward to the 7th period of 1000 years from the Creation, when the faithful & the earth will find rest - Revelation 20v4-6, Hebrews 4v11, Zechariah 1v11.
This period of time, though blessed, is transitional. Sin is restrained during the righteous rule of Christ and His saints. But then, after this time is expired, sinful flesh will be permitted one last attempt to oppose the Divine rule. This is totally crushed, and then there is a resurrection to judge those who have lived during the Kingdom Age.
When this is done, "death and hell (i.e. the grave)" are finally eradicated from the earth - Revelation 20. All "enemies" of Christ, including "death", will have been "destroyed". 1st Corinthians 15v24-26. Circumcision on the 8h day signified (1) the cutting off of the flesh & (2) faith in God. See Colossians 2v11-13, where Paul draws the analogy with baptism - link to 'baptism' for more on that vitally important subject.
And so at the time when sinful flesh will be no more, "there shall be no more curse"...Revelation 22v3…"and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away" - Revelation 21v4. This is perfection, to which the eighth day pointed, when Paul writes that "God (shall be) all in all" - 1st Corinthians 15v28. We summarise that the seventh day points to completion, the eighth day to perfection - link to 'signs' - the 7th & 8th.
10. It is often overlooked that the seventh day was not the only day upon which a "sabbath" was observed. Sometimes, especially in connection with the important feasts, an EIGHTH DAY "sabbath" was also commanded. The feast of tabernacles, which pointed to the great harvest of ingathering of redeemed ones to be revealed at the beginning of the eighth period (see item 9), provided specifically for "a sabbath...ON THE FIRST DAY...AND ON THE EIGHTH DAY" - Leviticus 23v33-39. It is therefore highly significant that the nations of the earth will be commanded "to keep the feast of tabernacles" - Zechariah 14v16.
Because the harvests of the earth will be at different times of the year, it is evident that the feast will be a continuous one. Jesus chose "the last day, that great day of the feast" - i.e. "the feast of tabernacles" John 7v37,2 - to deliver His prophecy re the future giving of the spirit, v37-39 - link to 'spirit' - page 1 for more on this subject.
And so the "sabbath" on the "first" and the "eighth" days will also be continuous. Reference therefore to sabbath observance during the Kingdom Age (e.g. Isaiah 66v23) refers pre-eminently to the eighth day. This is put beyond dispute in Ezekiel 43v18-27, concerning "the ordinances of the altar". Note v27 - "And when these days are expired, it shall be, that UPON THE EIGHTH DAY, AND SO FORWARD, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the LORD GOD". If there is any doubt that this refers to the future age, it is dispelled by considering v1-12. The nations (including Israel) and all peoples of the earth, will thus be taught to look to the time BEYOND THE KINGDOM AGE (the seventh period) to THE EIGHTH PERIOD, for their redemption. The 8th day sabbath will then be fulfilled…link to 'feasts' and 'the Lord's day' -8th Vision.
11. The Mosaic seventh day sabbath, like other parts of the law of Moses, has a spiritual counterpart today. It involves a "rest" EVERY DAY of the week "from (our) own works". This becomes an earnest of the future "rest" which "remaineth…to the people of God", Hebrews 4v8-11. 1st Peter 4v1,2 - "he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin". Jesus Christ offers us this "rest" when we "take (His) yoke upon (us)", Matthew 11v28-30. This is through belief and baptism upon the basis, NOT OF THE MOSAIC, BUT OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT, Galatians 3v8,16,26,29.
In this blessed position, believers should not again be brought under "the weak and beggarly elements" of the law - Galatians 4v9-11. "Christ is the END OF THE LAW FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS TO EVERY ONE THAT BELIEVETH" - Romans 10v4 cp Acts 15v1-35. Colossians 2v16,17 specifically FORBIDS the observance of the Mosaic seventh day sabbath as a means of religious justification.
The Revised version renders "an holyday" as "a feast day", and this refers to the sabbaths etc. which were associated with the various annual feasts. On the other hand, the term "the sabbath days" refers to the weekly seventh day sabbaths. This is evident by reference to the Old Testament, where the same distinction is made. See 1st Chronicles 23v31, 2nd Chronicles 2v4; 8v13; 31v3, Nehemiah 10v31-33, Hosea 2v11.
12. What day then should believers meet to keep the memorial feast as commanded by Jesus Christ? See Matthew 26v26-29, Mark 14v22-25, Luke 22v19,20. Cp also the Apostle Paul's endorsement in 1st Corinthians 11v1,2,23. There is no commandment as such as to the actual day, however it is noteworthy that the early disciples met together "on the first day of the week", 1st Corinthians 16v2; 11v20, Acts 20v7, Hebrews 10v25. We should be "followers" of this example, and we should "keep the ordinances" as "delivered" - 1st Corinthians 11v1,2,23. The first day of the week was the day on which Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples - Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20.
This is equivalent to the eighth day of circumcision, the "token" of the Abrahamic covenant. See items 3 & 8 for this connection. It is interesting to note that on the seventh day sabbath the disciples preached the risen Christ to the Jews. Cp Acts 13v14-47 etc. It was not used to remember Christ, which was done on the first day of the week. It is appropriate that "as often as (believers) eat this bread, and drink this cup, (they) do shew the Lord's death till he come", 1st Corinthians 11v26. It is appropriate also to have extra meetings at any suitable time and day with sick members or members in isolation etc.
IN SUMMARY: Jesus Christ, having observed the law perfectly (including the seventh day sabbath), "hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us" - Galatians 3v13. This curse which came upon an innocent man because "cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree", Galatians 3v13, was no doubt included in the law as a means of its own removal when a righteous man was affected by it. This is similar to the witness of the law to "a better covenant" by the precedence of circumcision over the sabbath - see item 8. Besides freeing those who were "in bondage" to the law, Galatians 4v3,9; 5v1 - the Lord has also made the way open for believers to "be delivered from the bondage of corruption", Romans 8v21 cp Hebrews 2v15. This He has done by His sacrifice for sin --
link to 'promises' & 'sacrifice' below.
page 1 (law and grace -
the "old" & the