Friday, September 16, 2011

Why Aren't Christians Bound by the Saturday Sabbath?

An earlier post I wrote, Answering Seventh-day Adventism, has generated some helpful feedback from both current and former Adventists.  The consensus seems to be that even if Catholics can show that the founders of Seventh-day Adventism were false prophets, that won't be good enough.

At its core, the logic is simple: Sabbath observance is part of the Ten Commandments. Actually, Adventists often claim that it's the most important of the Ten. White made the odd claim that it was “the only one of the ten which brings to view the true God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth.”  So if One of the Ten Commandments is no longer binding, what about the other Nine?  Can we just start murdering and committing idolatry, willy-nilly?

The answer to this gets into a broader question of the relationship between the relationship between the Law of Moses and the New Covenant.  The short answer is this: Christ fulfilled the Law.  None of the Law is binding simply by virtue of being the Law.  Instead, here's what we're bound to follow (from Matthew 22:36-40):
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Those are the two commandments that we Christians have to live out.  So some of the moral rules and restrictions found in the Law are still in effect: not because they're Law, but because they're necessary for living out a life of love of God and love of neighbor.   This necessarily means that the prohibition against murder is treated very differently than, say, the prohibition against wearing wool and linen at the same time (Deuteronomy 22:11).

There's much more that can be said on that topic, but like I said, that's a bit complex. So let's look at the simpler question: what happens to the Sabbath.  And here's the answer that the Scriptures give.

(1) Sabbath Observance is No Longer Binding

The Old Testament set special days set aside each week (the Sabbath), each month (the New Moon), and each year (the specific religious festivals, like Passover).  Solomon refers to each of these in 2 Chronicles 2:4, in a letter to Hiram, the king of Tyre:
Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God and to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him, for setting out the consecrated bread regularly, and for making burnt offerings every morning and evening and on the Sabbaths, at the New Moons and at the appointed festivals of the LORD our God. This is a lasting ordinance for Israel.
So what happens to these special observances in the New Covenant?  Look at  Colossians 2:16, right after the passage I quoted yesterday, in which St. Paul says:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
That's about as clear as can be.  We're not bound to observe Passover or Hanukkah, or the New Moon celebrations, or the Saturday Sabbath.    We'll get to why this is, shortly, but for now, just recognize that the above passage ends the controversy.  Christians are not still bound by the Saturday Sabbath.  So Seventh-day Adventism's central doctrine is still false.

(2) Why Aren't We Still Bound?

Without going into a full discussion of the relationship between the Law and the New Covenant, for now, it'll suffice that Jesus Christ said of His mission: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).  He died on the Cross on Friday, and was laid in the Tomb.  He rose again on Easter Sunday, “when the Sabbath was over” (Mark 16:1).  That is, His Body rested in the Tomb, fulfilling the Sabbath once and for all.  By forever tying the Sabbath in with the Triduum, Christ swept the Sabbath up into eternity.

So how do Christians observe the Sabbath now?  We hear the answer in Hebrews 4:6-11.  After
Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” 
This He did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice,do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.   
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
What's this saying?  That each of us are called today to turn towards Christ, and to accept Him in faith. If we do this, we enter into His eternal rest.  We stop trying to work our way to Heaven, and walk by faith, instead. Thus, the Sabbath rest is observed every day; it's observed Today, and it's always Today.

When we walk in Christ, we walk in the fulfillment of the Sabbath, the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5).  We don't have to observe the Saturday Sabbath for the same reason that we don't have to follow the Mosaic Law.  He fulfills both perfectly.

(3) Respecting Those Who Observe the Saturday Sabbath

St. Paul often offers solid pastoral advice for dealing with those who still found bound by the Jewish Law.  He's quick to correct their errors, as their spiritual father, but he's just as quick to tell the rest of us to mind our own business.  So he corrects the claim that Saturday Sabbath observance is necessary, but then he has this to say to the rest of us, in Romans 14:5-6:
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
This is an important point to keep in mind.  Yes, Adventists are wrong when they claim that the observance is still required.  (In fact, Romans 14:5-6 wouldn't make sense if they were right, since Paul would have to say that the one who regards every day alike was sinning against the most important Commandment.)

But if Christians want to devote Saturday to God in a special way, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  On the contrary, they're doing something for God, and it's pleasing to Him.  It only becomes wrong once they declare that this is somehow required, or that everyone is supposed to do it.

(4) Why Do We Observe Sunday, Then?

Given that no one day is inherently more sacred than any others, as Paul's writings show, why do Catholics have things like a Sunday obligation?  Short answer, Hebrews 10:25 tells us to continue assembling together as Christians.  Communal worship doesn't work if people come and go whenever they want, so every Church - Catholic, Protestant, Adventist, you name it - sets worship times. The Catholic Church sets the primary day for worship on Sunday, to ensure that the full assembly of Christians is present together, encouraging one another and worshiping God.  Longer answer?  Here.

Update: Link fixed.

20 comments:

  1. Good article Joe,

    I'd like to add a few points:

    (1) SDAs say the Ten C's are 'eternal' while the rest of the Law is abolished; but as you point out, the "two greatest commandments" (Love God; Love Neighbor) are not taken from the Ten but from two separate places in Leviticus. So there's a bind right there.

    (2) 2 Corinthians 3 calls the Ten Commandments the "Ministry of Death" in light of the Gospel, since the Mosaic Law only exposes sin, but never contained the promise of Salvation (Gal 3:15-18).

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  3. Joe, the longer answer declares that missing Church on Sunday is a mortal sin because it "forsakes the brethren".

    How does that apply when you attend a different Catholic church? Or possibly when you attend a Catholic church in Europe that only has 1-2 people attend the mass?

    Out of curiousity,
    Brock

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  4. @Joe: Although the first day is the day the gentile churches were to have the collection, I find it funny you used Col 2:16. Does not the RCC judge what you eat and drink in reguards to Friday abstaining by calling it a sin? Also, does not the RCC judge a sabbath day in reguards to calling missing mass a sin? Sounds a little like a present rebuke (at the time it was penned) to those claiming the law was binding and also a bit of a prophecy against the woman who would take a seat on the city that sits on seven hills.

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  5. Brock,

    Great question. As I understand it, the Church keeps it pretty simple. Even if you're the only one at Mass, you're still spiritually present with all the other Catholics on Earth, in that you're together in prayer, and bound together by the Real Presence.


    Michael,

    Did you see the end of the original post, where I answered this already? If not, read the link, and then see if that clarifies things any.

    As for the notion that the Vatican is the city built upon seven hills in Revelation, you might want to do a bit of fact-checking. That was the Roman Empire... which was built on seven hills. The Vatican is built on one hill: Mons Vaticanus, or in English, Vatican hill.

    No credible Christian scholar still takes the view that Revelation refers to the Vatican, because while it makes for a great Catholic-bashing soundbite, it's terrible Scriptural exegesis.

    I'm curious, though: what's your view on Church history? When, historically, should Christians have stopped trusting the Gospel preached by the Christians at Rome, whose "faith is being reported all over the world" (Romans 1:8)? Or is it your view that St. Paul was praising the Antichrist even then?

    In Christ,

    Joe

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  6. @Joe: The last comment in your post wasn't my point. My point was that the RCC judges whereas Paul was discouraging habitually missing the gathering together. Also, let's reason about the Whore's identity. If five have fallen, one is, and the seventh has yet to come, how could the Whore be the Roman Empire? The Roman Empire is the "one is" since the penning took place around 95ad. The Whore sits on a seven, not six-headed beast. The Harlot is a religious institution that exists when the Antichrist comes since "the beast and the ten will hate the Whore". And, you KNOW the Antichrist hasn't came since it is when Christ comes again that the beast (Mahdi) and false prophet (Isa (without the wounds)) are thrown alive into the Lake of Fire. [Why is the beast the Mahdi and someone who claims to be Jesus without wounds and disclaiming the Son of God title (Sounds like a writing of John, no?) the false prophet? I'll tell ya. The Scripture says not to believe the claims: 1) I am he. (Islamic Jesus) 2) He's out in the dessert. (Islamic Mahdi - think of Iran claiming Mahdi is under a well in the dessert) 3) He's in the inner rooms. (Islamic Mahdi - think occultation and Iran claiming Mahdi is under a well in the dessert)? Also, wouldn't an "Islamic savior" hate the RCC? Look what radical Islam does to non-Muslims, especially the RCC. Again, as it is written: "The beast and the ten will hate the Whore."]

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  7. Michael,

    How does that interpretation work with something like Revelation 17:11, which says that "the beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction."

    Are you suggesting that the Mahdi used to exist, but doesn't now?

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  8. @Joe: "Who once was, and now is not" is 1) sarcastic about the Mahdi (because obviously nobody can go into occultation), and 2) the fallen angel released from prison that will accompany the Antichrist in doing false miracles. It's a two-fold prophecy. Anyways, think about the crescent moon of Islam, Joe. The moon's full glow is hidden, right? It's an Islamic picture of the hidden imam (Mahdi). Although the Scripture mocks it and tells us to trust in Christ. I'm in agreement with that. Read up on the Mahdi, 12th imam, etc. Also, listen to Perry Stone. He'll give insight you won't be able to keep up with. (In general, and on the Mahdi.)

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  9. Michael,

    Are there any other prophesies that you interpret as "sarcastic"?

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  10. That "you interpret". I should expect such blind ignorance from one speaking Whore. Anyways, read Psalm 2. I would call God laughing at His enemies before He sets up His Son's Kingdom a wee bit of a sarcastic prophecy.

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  11. Joe said: "When, historically, should Christians have stopped trusting the Gospel preached by the Christians at Rome, whose "faith is being reported all over the world" (Romans 1:8)?"

    According to Romans 16:20, that wont come to pass: "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your [Roman Church's] feet."

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  12. @Nick: That was for the saints as a whole. The fact that it was in the book of Romans has nothing to do with it.

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  13. Michael,

    (1) I put up with a lot on the blog, but if you're going to descend into ad hominem attacks (I'm referring primarily to the “speaking Whore” remark here), you can kindly leave. On the other hand, if you can actually articulate and defend a view of Scripture and the Gospel, instead of personal attacks, I'd love to continue this discussion.

    (2) Your example from Psalm 2 isn't on point. God actually is going to triumph over His enemies, and actually is going to establish (and has begun to establish) His Kingdom.

    That prophesy is true, not sarcastic. For it to be analogous to your own interpretation of Revelation 17, we'd have to say that the Psalmist is mocking the idea that God would actually establish a Kingdom. Which, of course, would be bad exegesis.

    (3) And yes, this is a case of “you interpret.” I can point you, with little trouble, to dozens of contradictory Protestant exegetes arrogantly assuming that they have unlocked the mysteries of the Book of Revelation.

    For that matter, just talk about what Revelation means to Cyril, the Seventh-day Adventist posting right now, and you'll quickly see what a diversity of viewpoints there is even amongst contemporary Christians. To assume that because something seems obvious to you, it must be (a) true, and (b) obvious to everyone else is a rudimentary mistake.

    (4) As I asked before: what's your view on Church history? When, historically, should Christians have stopped trusting the Gospel preached by the Christians at Rome, whose "faith is being reported all over the world" (Romans 1:8)? Or is it your view that St. Paul was praising the Antichrist even then?

    God bless,

    Joe

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  14. @Joe: Here's my answers to your four statements in your previous comment:
    1) Yes, "speaking Whore" could come off as kind of unfit in a "He's swearing!" type of way. Yet, you were (as we've seem to be talking a lot about) quite sarcastic. If you dish it out, you must be able to take it. But I'll calm down on the "Whore" comments in the future. Yet if the need is there, "Harlot" or "Great Prostitute" must be used if needed for the sake of your conscience and other readers. Anyways, really, no TRUE harm meant.
    2) Sorry, laughing at the enemies of Himself and His Son while they come against Him is very sarcastic, and as you pointed out, true. And in regard to your last statement in this second of your four comments: What, is there only one kind of sarcasm? Sarcasm is sarcasm, no matter how it's used. That said, we would NOT have to say that the Psalmist is mocking the idea of Yeshua setting up a kingdom.
    3) If you think I'm the only one who thinks the RCC is the Great Prostitute and that the Mahdi is the Antichrist, you are WAY off.
    4) This makes no sense, whatsoever.

    I would say God bless, but according to 2John I'd be sharing in your sin of false teaching, so I can't. But, take care though!

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  15. Michael,

    (3) Joe's point wasn't that you're the only one who believes that the RCC is the Great Harlot, it was that there are radical, radical differences among different groups as to the interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Your interpretation is just that - yours. This begs the question: why should we trust your interpretation rather than someone else's, such as our Seventh Day Adventist's?

    (4) I'm not hugely sure why you say that Joe's fourth question "makes no sense, whatsoever". I'm sure you believe that the authentic Gospel was preached and lived out in Rome in the First Century, no? Paul wrote to the true Christians there. Tradition says that both he and Peter were there and that they were both martyred for love of Christ. With these two great apostles one would imagine that it became a great Church, faithful to the Gospel. However...you clearly believe that at some point something changed... At what point was this authentic Gospel lost in Rome? At what point did this spotless Bride of Christ become the Great Harlot? Can you give us an approximate date? Can you give us the names of the people involved?

    God bless,

    David.

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  16. @David: "Your interpretation is just that - yours." Well, sorry to say, but millions think the Mahdi is the coming Antichrist and tens and tens of millions think the Great Prostitute is the RCC. When did it begin, you ask? Constantine's edict to legalize Christianity was when paganism became introduced in full force. As an example of some people, Jerome was a grave worshiper. Later evidence was when "priests" were refused to get married and Friday abstaining from meats as Paul predicted. Those are just a couple of many, many examples. - take care

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  17. Michael,

    If this is true, can you point to any Catholic doctrines which originate after Constantine?

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  18. @Joe: "If this is true..." Are you serious. Every doctrine of the RCC is, at least, many years removed from the apostles, and most have changed numerous times after Constantine. December 25 as Christ's birthday is admitted by many a RCC scholar that it was used to get pagans away from the worship of sun (or whatever they worshiped on that date). But let's look at post-VaticanII: How about the doctrine on the laity? You couldn't even of had this blog say the net was around pre-VaticanII. Seriously, read 'laity' and scroll to 'As to doctrine'. I read it and am just like, "WOW!" - take 'er slow Joe

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  19. "...tens and tens of millions think the Great Prostitute is the RCC."

    Even if they do, that's not the point that Joe and I were making. We were making the point that *your* interpretation is not necessarily the *correct* interpretation. Why should someone believe that yours is the correct one?


    "Constantine's edict to legalize Christianity was when paganism"

    Okay...so 313 AD is the rough date we'll use for when things went wrong? Okay, so I take it that you believe in Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist, Baptismal Regeneration, Church Authority, Monarchical Bishops, Sunday Worship, ...?

    I'm assuming you believe in all these things because we have clear proof that the Church prior to 313 AD held these beliefs.

    Out of interest, do you believe in the doctrine of the Trinity?

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  20. If you respond to only one of my comments, please respond to my previous comment about 313 AD as it is the most fundamental, but since you brought up other issues, here are some quick responses...


    > "Jerome was a grave worshiper"

    I'm not quite sure what you mean here. Perhaps you are referring to the question of relics? Aside from their support in Scripture (2 Kgs 13:20-21, Acts 19:11-12), we have patristic evidence of them starting to appear by c156 AD.


    > "Later evidence was when 'priests' were refused to get married"

    Actually, we have many married Catholic priests in the Catholic Church, mostly in the East.

    In the West, however, the discipline has been of celibate clergy, in imitation of Christ and His teaching on "eunuchs for the Kingdom", as well as Paul's exhortation to celibacy.


    > "...and Friday abstaining from meats as Paul predicted"

    Actually, Paul was talking about the Gnostic groups which were already in existence and who would plague the Church in the early centuries.

    These Gnostics disdained marriage because they were dualists. If you wanted to be in their group, you were not allowed to get married because they saw the body as evil.

    In contrast, in the Catholic Church, nobody is banned from getting married. However, if a man wishes to become a priest in the west he is called upon to remain celibate so as to be solely focused upon the Lord. This is something radically different from banning marriage.

    Also, shouldn't the teaching of the Council of Jerusalem indicate harlot-like tendencies in the Church since they taught certain dietary restrictions?

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