Origin and Duration of the Sabbath Law
- S.D.A.'s argue that the sabbath law was given to Adam and Eve and is eternally binding
on all believers. The argument is stated as follows:
the Decalogue, sealed with the lip and finger of God, was lifted above all Jewish rites
and ceremonies. This is evident from the fact that the Sabbath was established before man
sinned, and therefore before he had any need of a Redeemer. It was not a part of the
ceremonial regulations occasioned by the entrance of sin, and which were annulled by the
death of Christ (Col. 2:17)."1
- There is no passage of Scripture which explicitly states that the keeping of the Sabbath
was binding on any prior to God's giving of the covenant to Israel. God "rested"
(Gen. 2:2,3), but nowhere is it stated that Adam and Eve were commanded to observe the
- Paul expressly states that the law (of which the decalogue was a part "was added
because of transgressions, until the seed should come." (Gal. 3:19). Since the law
was added because of transgressions, it implies that the sabbath law was not given to Adam
and Eve. The law was added until "the seed should come," which clearly
implies that its provision had served its purpose when the Seed had come.
- Even if it were true that the sabbath law was in existence before the law of Moses, this
does not necessarily make it binding today, since both animal sacrifices and circumcision
were commanded by God in patriarchal times, but are not now binding.
- If the sabbath law were eternal, why did an alleged "ceremonial law" -
circumcision, take precedence over sabbath observance - a moral law? The law required that
eight days after a child was born it must be circumcised (Lev. 12:3), but sometimes the
day of circumcision would fall on a sabbath. A conflict of laws resulted - one demanding
that circumcision should take place, and the other, that no work should be done. (See Jn.
7:22,23). Circumcision took precedence because unless one was circumcised, the law could
not be kept. Likewise, on the "sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the
sabbath, and are blameless." (Matt. 12:5). Instead of the sabbath being a day of rest
to the Lord, their work was doubled. (Num. 28:9-10). All believers are a "royal
priesthood" (1 Pet. 2:9) and as such, are exempt from one day sabbath keeping.
- Part of the sabbath law was the penalty for its disobedience: "whosoever doeth any
work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death." (Exod. 31:15). If the law
commanding observance has not changed why has the penalty for its disobedience been
changed by the S.D.A.'s?
- The sabbath law is expressly stated to be a sign between Israel and Yahweh: "It is
a sign between me and the children of Israel forever." (Exod. 31:17 cf. Deut.
5:15). The law was not given to the forebearers of the Israelites since it is stated:
"The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us even us, who
are all of us here alive this day." (Deut. 5:3). This is further suggested by the
ignorance of Moses and Aaron as to what to do with the man caught picking up sticks on the
sabbath: "And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done
to him." (Num. 15:34). Why would there be ignorance about the penalty for sabbath
disobedience if the law had been in force since Eden?
- If the sabbath law is eternal why is it termed (as part of the decalogue) "the
ministration of death, written and engraved in stones" and the
"ministration of condemnation"? (2 Cor. 3:6-9).
- The sabbath is termed a "shadow". (Col. 2:16,17). How can that which is a
"shadow" be eternal? The sabbath was designed to teach men to rest from the
works of the flesh in anticipation of the great millenial rest which God would provide.
"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." (Heb. 4:9,11). The
believer now rests every day from the works of the flesh, labouring "to enter into
that rest". (Heb. 4:11). This parallels the change in circumcision - from a literal
cutting off of flesh to "that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the
letter." (Rom. 2:29) 2
- Judaising heretics who said that it was needful to keep the law of Moses (Acts 15:1,24)
subverted the Truth and received strong indictments from the Apostle Paul in his letter to
the Galatian ecclesia. But no mention is made by the Apostle of a binding sabbath law to
be observed by Gentile converts. Similarly, it is significant that the council at
Jerusalem (Acts 15) was convened to consider Jewish claims regarding the law of Moses, but
no mention was made of sabbath keeping. If the sabbath were eternal and immutable one
would have expected that at this conference such would have been stated. Rather, Paul's
letters leave sabbath observance to the individual choice of believers. (Rom. 14:5,6; Col.
- There is further evidence that sabbath observance is not mandatory for New Testament
- The ten commandments were a part of the "old" covenant. (Exod. 34:28; Deut.
4:13; 1 Kings 8:9,21).
- But the writer to the Hebrews states: "A new covenant, he hath made the first old.
Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." (Heb. 8:13).
- Therefore, the decalogue as given to Israel is no longer binding upon New Testament
- It is sometimes contended that if the "old" covenant has been replaced by the
"new" then it must now be permissable to steal, murder etc., but this is not so.
The following tabulation shows that nine of the ten commandments have been re-affirmed in
the affirmative form ("do" rather than "do not"). Sabbath observance
is the one command of the law which is not re-affirmed.
|| Old Testament
||Eph. 4:6; 1 Jn. 5:21; Matt. 4:10
||1 Cor. 10:14; Rom. 1:25
||James 5:12; Matt. 5:34-35
||Abolished: Rom. 14:5; Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 8:13
||Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20
||1 Jn. 3:15; Matt. 5:21,22; Rom. 13:9
||Heb. 13:4; Matt. 5:27-28; 1 Cor. 6:9-10
||Rom. 2:21; Eph. 4:28
||Col. 3:9; Eph. 4:25; 2 Tim. 3:3; 1 Tim. 3:8-11
||Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5
- The Apostles gathered with believers on the first day of the week to remember the
sacrifice of Christ and to take up the collection of money for the work of the Truth.
(Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). On the sabbath they were engaged in contentious disputation with
the Jews in the synagogues. Acts records: "And Paul, as his manner was, went
in unto them, [the synagogue of the Jews], and three sabbath days reasoned with them out
of the scriptures." (Acts 17:2). S.D.A.'s have reversed this example. They gather
with those of like belief on Saturday and proselytize on Sunday.3
- Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, (Washington: Review and
Herald Publishing Ass., 1957), pp. 150-151. Return
- Even now believers can partially experience the Sabbath rest of the millenium. Jesus
said: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest." (Matt. 11:28). The Greek word, "anapausis" translated
"rest" is used in the Septuagint for the Old Testament sabbath rest. (The
Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures in the third
century B.C.) Return
- S.D.A.'s contend that the custom of holding the memorial service on Sunday owes its
origin to the decree of Constantine in 328 A.D. in which it was commanded that the first
day of the week should be kept holy by all "Christians". This S.D.A. assertion
is inaccurate. Historical records indicate that the custom went back to Apostolic times.
Consider the following:
- "We do not regard circumcision, nor observe the Sabbath, because such things as
these do not belong to Christians.' (Eusebius, about 324 A.D.).
- 'The obligation of the Lord's resurrection binds us to keep the paschal festival on the
Lord's day.' (Anatolius, A.D. 270).
- 'Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly; since it is the first day
in which God made the world; and Jesus Christ, our Saviour, rose, on that day, from the
dead.' 'On the day called Sunday there is made a gathering into the same place of all that
live in city or country, and the memoranda of the apostles, or the writings of the
prophets, are read as long as may be. Afterwards, the reader having ceased, the president
makes verbally the admonition and exhortation to the imitation of these excellent things.
Then we all rise and pour forth prayers. Then the bread and wine are taken.' (Justin
Martyr, A.D. 140).
- 'Those who were concerned with old things, have come to newness of confidence, no longer
keeping sabbaths, but living according to the Lord's day, on which our life, as risen
again through him, depends.' (Ignatius, about l00 A.D.)."
Quoted from "How and When The Sabbath Should be Kept", Herald of the
Coming Age, XVIII, No. 6, (April, 1968), p. 96. Return