When looking at keeping the “Sabbath” and all the precepts of the Old Testament we need also to look at what the New Testament says about it. Only in this way can we put Christ into “walking the talk”.
Now I start to get a little confused by the teachings that have been going on for so long – since they are at variance with the many of the teachings of the New Testament. Most will now accept the Paul was the greatest apostle, and certainly wrote more of the New Testament that any other! Most of his letters are about “walking the talk”, providing insight and revelation into the teaching of Jesus and the relevance (or otherwise) of the Law of Moses.
Paul says to Peter in Galatians (chapter 2 onwards):
“Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you trying to make these Gentiles obey the Jewish laws you abandoned? You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. And yet we Jewish Christians know that we become right with God, not by doing what the law commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be accepted by God because of our faith in Christ – and not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be saved by obeying the law.”
“Rather, I make myself guilty if I rebuild the old system I already tore down…… For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.”
Then in Galatians 3 Paul says:
“Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not… why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”
This goes on and on! But then in v10 of ch3, “But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse” – but Paul is talking about a better way, the way of faith, that all of those who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing as Abraham. In v19 it tells us that the law was given to reveal the guilt of the people, but only lasted until the coming of Jesus.
The warning appears in Galatians chapter 5 appears relevant:
Verse 1: “and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”
Verse 4: “For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen away from God’s grace.”
So Paul’s teaching to the Galatians was to correct those who were trying to force the Law on to the Christians in Galatia. In Colossians there is more that reveals this teaching. In chapter 2 verse 8: “Don’t let anyone lead you astray with empty philosophy and high-sounding nonsense that comes from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world, and not from Christ.” Once again, the Colossians were under condemnation because of those trying to force the Law onto them. In verse 16 Paul says: “So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules were only shadows of the real thing, Christ himself.”
In Hebrews chapter 4 we start to see something more. This is a mystery; this is God’s place of rest which we are to be in, not just when we go to be with the Father, but also today. In the Old Testament it was a picture of what was to come when Jesus led the way through Calvary.
So what then? What we do have is a pattern in Acts and also other empirical evidence of the 1st and 2nd century churches before the Church was structured as it is today. Certainly the apostles did meet together on the Sabbath – in fact they went to the synagogue (the Jewish synagogue – not a Christian meeting place) and thence to a place of corporate fellowship together, to break bread and to worship together. But not as a matter of “law” but as a means of meeting together and teaching and learning more of the Christ who set them free. Perhaps the main reason for going to the synagogue was to hear the Scriptures being read (since this was the only place where they were held).
We perhaps should also note that, taking the pattern of the letters of the New Testament, all of the churches were imperfect, all had false teaching, all experienced sin and division. Yet through all this they were praised for their faith. The early Church was as imperfect then as it is now. What they had in abundance was the Holy Spirit that taught them the way of the Truth. Most churches had no access to the Old Testament (and certainly no New Testament) so only the revelation of God’s Spirit and the teachings of the “missionaries” were their guide lines.
Does this make them any worse than us with the wealth of scripture and concordances etc etc that we have today? There is certainly evidence that the Pauline letters were passed around so that false teaching could be replaced by wisdom. What is also sure, the early church instigated a day of Worship – not a Sabbath day, but a day when all would meet together to fellowship. It was put on the first day of the week so that it would not be confused with the Jewish Sabbath. It was not a law that was laid down – we see no reason other than it was supposed to be the day of Victory, when Christ was raised from the dead. In other words, this was a day to remember the victorious life that we have inherited through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul tells us that we are to pray continuously, to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to have His joy at all times, to love one another above all things. Yet he still gives us instruction about our corporate worship – this must therefore be an implicit requirement for us to worship together. There is not instruction to have a Sabbath, yet no instruction not to – provided it was not done under any legalistic banner. What was wrong, however, was the later church to confuse the two. We have accepted the lies that have been perpetuated through nearly 1700 years.