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FAQ: What About New Testament Scriptures Supporting the Sabbath?

Somebody who didn't want to be answered wrote me today about the Sabbath. They began their email with an accusation:


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You are a well written person, which is why, I'm sure, you've been able to confuse many people.  I read what you have to say about the Sabbath and you are wrong, so say it plainly.  I give you credit for orginality, I've never heard anyone say that every day is the Sabbath.

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I'm afraid I can't take credit for originality. The first reference to perpetual Sabbath is over 1800 years old!

The new law requires you to keep perpetual sabbath, and you [Jews], because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, ch. 12, c. A.D. 150)

Although this person didn't want to hear any responses I might have concerning the Sabbath, I thought you might. After all, there are indeed verses that seem to suggest Christians should keep a Jewish, non-working Sabbath.

Let's deal with the ones he mentioned one by one:

And [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:4)

It's always struck me as humorous that modern Sabbatarians point to verses that say the apostles were in the synagogues on the Sabbath as proof  that the church met on the Sabbath.

If the apostles were in the synagogue, then they weren't meeting with the church!

Isn't that right?

However, concerning that Scripture, in case you don't know, the twelve, for the most part, kept the Law of Moses. They were Jews. None of the twelve were Gentiles.

Here's what the Scriptures say about Jewish believers keeping the Law. This is James, the Lord's brother, speaking to Paul in Jerusalem in Acts 21:20-24.

You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who believe, and they are all zealous for the Law. They have been informed about you that you teach the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, nor to walk after the customs. … Do this, therefore … We have four men who have taken a [Nazirite] vow. Take them, purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads. Then everyone will know that the things they have heard about you are nothing, but that you also walk orderly and keep the Law.

If you don't know about this, it can sound quite strange. Paul keeping the Law? Paul buying sacrifices for Jews taking a Nazirite vow?

How about Paul not telling Jews that they ought not to circumcise their children?

The fact is, Paul may not have told Jews that they shouldn't circumcise their children, but he sure told them it was unnecessary. Galatians 6:15 says:

In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision can do anything, but [only] a new creation.

Want something clearer?

He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. Instead, he is a Jew who is one inwardly, whose circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter. (Rom. 2:28-29)

Despite all this Paul did do many Jewish things. In Acts 18:21, he left the Ephesians to hurry to get to a feast. Just three verses earlier, Luke mentions that Paul had taken a Nazirite vow.

But that doesn't mean the apostles were keeping all the Law! They were not utterly forsaking it, but they certainly weren't feeling bound to it. When Paul rebuked Peter for his hypocrisy in Antioch, he said …

If you, being a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like the Jews do, why are you compelling Gentiles to live as Jews? (Gal. 2:14)

One last point … 

Paul went into the synagogue to preach to the Jews, not to meet with them or keep the Sabbath. Immediately after the Scripture we quoted above, we read that the Jews didn't listen to Paul, so he shook the dust off his feet and declared, "From here on I go to the Gentiles."

So much for Paul's Sabbath keeping!

Jesus kept his Father's commandments (Jn. 15:10) and attended synagogue (Luk. 4:16).

This doesn't really need to be answered. Every Christian who knows that we need not keep the Jewish Sabbath also knows it was appropriate that Jesus did so while he was on earth.

Why don't we have to keep the Jewish Sabbath and what should we be doing? The next Scripture brought up addresses that issue perfectly … 

Do not think that I came to dissolve the Law and the Prophets; I did not come to dissolve, but to bring to fill up. For I tell you honestly, until heaven and earth pass away, not one tiny letter or accent mark will pass away from the law until all of it happens. (Matt. 5:17-18)

Okay, I translated those two verses accurately so you can look at what they really say. The two "fulfills" found in the King James Version in those two verses are completely different Greek words that are not related to one another.

I found that out while reading Irenaeus' Against Heresies, written about A.D. 185.

Irenaeus was a Greek speaker, and at first I couldn't understand what he was talking about. Finally, I realized that he did not understand Matthew 5:17 to be saying "fulfill," as I did, but he understood Jesus to be saying extend or expand.

Only then did I  look up the Greek word and realize Irenaeus was exactly right.

So what does that mean, and how does it apply to the Sabbath?

Every time I've answered that question, from the perspective of the apostles' churches, it has not only satisfied Christians, but gotten them excited. If you've ever wondered about the Law and the New Testament and struggled with verses about law-keeping, this will scratch that itch so well you'll shout in joy.

That explanation is here.

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