Change of Law?

This week’s study is about the ongoing permanence of God’s law despite human attempts to change it. A special focus is on the Sabbath. I remember a conversation I had a few years ago with a Protestant Christian friend and he mentioned casually that if the Sabbath was important for Christians, surely the New Testament would have more to say about it.

In response I did a simple concordance search and the results surprised me. The Sabbath appears sixty-nine times in the New Testament always in reference to the weekly Sabbath (with the possible exception of Colossians 2:16). In the Old Testament it appears 106 times, several of which are references to the annual Sabbaths.

Given than the Old Testament is more than three times longer than the New Testament, it becomes evident that proportionately the Sabbath appears substantially more prominently in the New than in the Old. We see this in the worship patterns of Paul and the other apostles as described in Acts.

The Sabbath School lesson covers a number of relevant texts. In this short analysis I would like to focus on three themes.

Worship on the “day which is the Sabbath”

Acts 13:14 reads: “From Perga they [Paul and Barnabas] went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down.” The translation “Sabbath” misses the force of the Greek original. Luke uses the phrase tē ēmēra tōn Sabbatōn, which literally means, “the day which is the Sabbath.” He uses the same expression again in 16:13.

It is no coincidence that this phrase appears here. Acts 13 marks the beginning of Paul’s missionary journeys. Acts 13:14 is the first mention of Paul’s worship practices and as such, sets the tone for Paul’s subsequent Sabbath gatherings. Paul is not simply meeting on a day when he will find people gathered to minister to. He is not meeting on the day the Jews call “Sabbath.” Rather, he meets on “the day which is the Sabbath.” As such, this phrase provides the reason for Paul’s worship practice—the seventh-day is still the biblical Sabbath.

Having established the fact, Luke does not feel a burden to restate his case and in the subsequent three references to the Sabbath in Acts 13, as well as most other references in the book of Acts, he refers to the day simply by the titular noun “Sabbath.”

Sabbath Worship as a Custom—Acts 17:1–9; 14:1

When, in his second missionary journey, Paul arrives in Thessalonica, we read: “They came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was [kata to eiōthos], Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:1–2). This text is interesting because it speaks of Paul’s custom, eiōthos, to go to the synagogue. Why did Paul customarily attend the synagogue? Was it because he kept the Sabbath? Or because it afforded him opportunity for mission work?

In Luke 4:16, Luke uses an identical expression in relation to Jesus: “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom (kata to eiōthos). And he stood up to read.”The Sabbath in question is the first named Sabbath in Jesus’ public ministry. By this early stage, “his custom” of attendance was already well established and was as such unrelated to his preaching and teaching ministry.

Furthermore, the statements a) “he went into the synagogue, as was his custom,” and b) “he stood up to read” in Greek are separated by the coordinating conjunction kai which functions to connect two independent statements.[1] This is well conveyed in the NIV by the insertion of a full stop between the two clauses. As such, Jesus’ custom of visiting the synagogue every Sabbath was independent from any preaching or teaching he conducted there—Jesus went to the synagogue because this is what He wanted to do and was in the habit of doing.

The same conclusion is valid for Paul. Just as in Luke 4:16, the first clause of Acts 17:2 “as his custom was Paul went into the synagogue,” is separated from the following clause by the same coordinating conjunction kai, again indicating two independent statements.

In Acts 14:1, Luke makes the same inference but in a more subtle way. After describing Paul’s successful ministry in Pisidian Antioch on the Sabbath, he introduces Paul’s ministry in Iconium with the words: “At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual [kata to auto] into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed.” Kata to auto, literally “in the same way,” points back to Pisidian Antioch and the apostles’ custom to attend the synagogue. Again the synagogue attendance is separated from the synagogue ministry by the coordinating conjunction kai in Greek and a full stop in the NIV indicating two independent statements.

A Church Next to the Synagogue, and Ephesus—Acts 18:1–17; 18–26; 19:8–9

Paul’s second missionary journey took him to Corinth, where he stayed eighteen months (Acts 18:11). While there, “every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4), a potential seventy-eight Sabbaths. Some were in the synagogue, but not all. At some point he faced opposition because of his preaching about Jesus and was kicked out of the synagogue. What did he do?

He established meetings in the house of Titius Justus which was sunomorousa,“next door” (NIV, ESV), “adjoined” (MRD) or “joined hard” (KJV) to the synagogue (Acts 18:7). Why choose that location? Was Paul trying to irritate the Jews? Be in their face? Hardly.

Rather, Paul was establishing an alternative but parallel arrangement for worship and fellowship. Ellison insightfully observes that for believers it would be easier if they were “in or near the Jewish district of the town… to avoid seeing idol-figures . . . and to be able to avoid continual insult, when they observed the Sabbath.”[2]

After a year and a half in Corinth, Paul went to the nearby port of Cenchrea,boarded a boat and traveled to Ephesus (Acts 18:18–19). Luke says little about his ministry in Ephesus. The visit was brief and when asked to stay longer he declined, promising instead to return (Acts 18:20–21). He left in Ephesus Aquila and Priscilla, two of his fellow workers, and moved on to Caesarea and Antioch, concluding his second missionary journey. He returned to Ephesus during his third missionary journey but after he had first visited the churches in Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:23). Exactly how much time elapsed between the two visits to Ephesus is unclear, but at least a year, probably more.

What is clear, however, is that Aquila, Priscilla, and the group of Christian believers in Ephesus continued to meet on the Sabbath in the synagogue. When Paul returned to Ephesus, he joined the other Christians in synagogue attendance for three months (Acts 19:8) until his bold preaching aroused opposition and Paul moved to a nearby lecture hall (19:9). His departure was not a personal or theological choice but was forced by opposition from the Jews.


From this brief discussion on a limited selection of pertinent Sabbath texts it becomes fairly obvious that Sabbath worship was an enduring legacy among the early apostles. It was not opportunistic for the sake of converting the Jews but part of their upbringing and theological outlook. A clear understanding of the worship patterns of the early church should make every Sabbatarian confident that in keeping the Sabbath s/he is in line with the noble practices of the apostles and early Christians.

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

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[1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 293–302.

[2] H. L. Ellison, “Paul and the Law—‘All Things to All Men,’” in Apostolic History and the Gospel, ed. W. Ward Gasque and Ralph P. Martin (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 197.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

The assumption seems to be that the Sabbath isn’t meant only for the Jews because Christian "patterns of worship in the early church should make every Sabbatarian confident that in keeping the Sabbath is in line with the noble practices of the apostles and early Christians".

If this is a legitimate prerequisite for keeping the Jewish Sabbath (as in - the same Sabbath the Jews keep), then we need to look at all the other festivals and holy days kept, not only by the early Christians, but Jesus himself. We might say that Jesus kept these festivals because he was a Jew, living as a Jew; but the early Christians kept “keeping” all the religious days after Jesus was crucified, rose, and ascended. The apostles were gathered “with one accord” at Pentecost. This, too, was part of the Jewish tradition that no longer meant anything to Christians, Paul seemed to keep those festivals long after he became a Christian as well - (Acts 20) It shouldn’t be a surprise that Paul preached in synagogues on the Sabbath because that’s where people would gather, Jews and Gentiles alike, just as they did during the other Jewish feasts that caused Paul to order his movements according to these feasts.

More to the point of the title of this article, we may worship on a seventh day, but it is not the seventh day that was declared to be holy. That seventh day (Sabbath) was calculated by another Jewish festival called the “Rosh Chodesh”, also known in the BIble as the “new moon festival”. This festival was based on the first appearing of the moon each moth, and set the beginning of a new month, and the numbering of the days of a new month. The Jews worshipped on the Sabbath that is the seventh day, as calculated from the new moon, which sets day #1 of that month. Not until 359AD was the Sabbath kept on Saturdays, and was made “stationary” within the Roman month- according to the Roman calendar which was adopted by Hilell II. The Jews went along with it because it was practical. Sabbath calculated by the moon, wanders all over the Roman month. We assume that because the Jews keep Saturday that this must be the correct day. Like someone said to me, “I know when the seventh day is. It’s on my calendar”.

That’s all fine and good, if we acknowledge that one out of seven days dedicated to worship is what God wants; but that’s not what this is about. We have made a whole apocalyptic scenario based on what day anybody worships God. If we insist on vilifying Sunday worshippers as followers of the “beast” (Rome) - as having changed the day of worship; we have been duped in the same way. Saturday Sabbath is a Roman construct as well.

I joined the Adventist church because of the Sabbath. I have happily kept the Sabbath, as has our whole family. The Sabbaths in the UP of Michigan were my favourite times - gathering along the shores of Lake Superior for vespers - watching the sun go down, singing hymns to the strumming of somebody’s guitar - beautiful memories. I still treasure them; and it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t the “Sabbath” the Jews were instructed to keep as holy - because I’m not a Jew; and my rest doesn’t come in 24 hour increments, once a week. Jesus called us to himself for that rest. What does turn me off is the exclusiveness we attribute to our worship as if this guarantees our salvation. There is a certain amount of arrogance in the name that gives us special status - that isn’t even there. I’m thinking it’s time to put first things first.


It would be really nice to see the absolutely best SDA scholarship applied to explaining the Jewish calendar system and Sabbaths and attempt to make an argument based on extra-biblical sources that there was an independent 7-day week not tied the lunar cycle, prior to the influence of the Roman week. It is pretty clear the Babylonian calender was lunar based and they also had a lot of significance on 7 day periods, but synced to the start of the month, i.e. not free running and independent of the lunar cycle. The Jews appear indebted to the Babylonians for much of their calender, and clearly a bunch of Jewish “Sabbaths” are also of the variety synced to the lunar cycle.

Unfortunately, even Hebrew scholars don’t actually have much proof of the origin of Sabbath. The Babylonians left way more documentation from earlier, and theirs was a lunar based system, with 7 day periods, but not free running, and the last “week” had a variable number of days.


So, you are not “keeping” a Sabbath in the same way or day as the Sabbath which was a sign of the covenant with the Jews and not given to new or gentile believers. Is that a fair statement?

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In the samoan Islands the Adventists keep sunday along with the other churches. I just wonder how God will sort this out when the mark of the beast is applied. This happened because being close to the International date line Samoa used to trade with the US but decided to trade with Australia so I believe they had no wednesday as a one off but the Adventists chose to count seven days and so sunday became their sabbath.

If the sabbath is tied to the monthly cycle the last week would have to be adjusted to 8 or 9 days because there are twenty nine and a half days in a lunar month. Does anyone have any information about this and how it was used by the Jewish people ?

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Interestingly, the phrase Kata to auto is handled in different way by the various translation. Some take the prepositional phrase with the verb, egeneto, and translate, “the same thing happened again…” referring to the obstacles to spreading the gospel in the previous town. Others attach it to the infinitive, eiselthein and translate “they entered into the synagogue together,” or “at the say time.”

I think there can be little doubt to the above conclusion. Still, I wonder why did the Early Church (first 400 years) become so anti-semitic? Along with this believers justified almost total disregard of any Jewish practice or custom.

The Jewish Virtual Library, explains this reason from a their point of view.

“In their zeal to justify early Church doctrine, the Apologists inevitably vilified the Jews. In making Christianity the New Israel, they had to explain the sins of the Old Israel, the fallen Israel, the false Israel.”

“The first apologist to do this was a newly-converted Christian named Justin Martyr (who was later killed by the Romans). In 145 CE (ten years after the Bar Kochba Revolt) Justin Martyr wrote an apology in which he was having a dialogue with a Jew named Trypho. Using Bible proof texts, Justin Martyr claimed that the Jews were originally selected by God because they were such an unspiritual group; they needed added laws. He blasted the Jews for rejecting Jesus, for killing Jesus, for leading people away from salvation. He gloated over the destruction of the Temple as being just punishment for Jewish perfidy. Justin Martyr’s writings became incorporated into early Christian thought, and were the origins of Christian anti-Semitism.”

This early Christian disdain for the Jews, is reasonably responsible for the several thousand years of Jewish hatred and persecution. Throughout history Christians have not acted honorably toward their Jewish forefathers; an understatement.

I can’t but wonder if Early Christians had kept the Sabbath–would anti-Semitism not existed? However, Paul set the tone for a new faith that was not justified by the law, always looked upon as the Jewish law. The second nail, was the many references to the corrupt Jewish leadership by Jesus. Which resulted in a blame game for the death of Jesus by Christians. God help us. Why has there been so much hate among Christians?

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The “Roman week” came with the Romans; therefore, it has nothing to do with the original Sabbath. Genesis sets up the moon and the sun as the means by which to tell time - logic tells us there was no other way, possible.

The Jews follow orders from the higher echelons of their culture like the rest of us, so when Hillel the second declared the Sabbath was to coincide with the Roman calendar, they obeyed - but what choice did they really have. This change was brought about by the Romans - guys in charge. In order for trade to run smoothly, the Romans found it difficult to shuffle the Jewish Sabbath with trading schedules since Jewish Sabbath came at different times during any given month. That’s why we don’t like talking about this as well. It’s bad enough to ask the boss for Saturdays off; who would allow you take Wednesdays one month and Mondays another. Of course, medical workers and pastors are all set, as well as all wives and mothers.


That would be known as a “loaded question”. So let me ask you - DO YOU?

We say we “keep the Sabbath” but we leave out the rest of the question - “Do we keep the Sabbath HOLY”?
We have set up arbitrary rules of behaviour for Sabbath keeping as if obeying those rules makes our behaviour in keeping it, HOLY. The standard answer is that we "regard it as holy (special) and do our best not to do any unnecessary work on the Sabbath. It seems to be enough just to “call” the day Sabbath. The Bible is very specific about how to keep the Sabbath - and breaking those rules was punishable by death.

I’m just playing by Adventist rules here. If, as we say, the Sabbath is eternal, and we will be keeping it “holy” for eternity, then we will also be keeping the day of the “new moon” - …it shall be from new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath all mankind will come to bow down before me, says the Lord." (Isaiah 66). This refers back to Isaiah 19 but we like to make these prophecies relevant to the “new earth”. That being the case, how do we get to ignore the “new moon” holy day now?

Look, we all get to make it up as we go. And that includes the church. The Jews were slaves in Egypt, and knew nothing about a day of rest. This was a gift from God - and it is for us as well. In this culture of work 'til you drop, the Sabbath is a blessing, to be sure. But we can’t make it the central part of our faith and identity, while we denigrate those who worship God on a different day. The operative words being “WORSHIP GOD”. As we know, on a round earth the Sabbath is kept at different times depending where you live. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you should move, according to Ellen White. This makes no sense. True Christianity isn’t about what day you don’t go to work. It’s about who you worship. Making the Sabbath front and centre of our belief system takes away the true identity of what a Christian should be. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”. (John). And it confuses understanding of what God is looking for in His children. Salvation isn’t, “saved by grace - PLUS the keeping the right day.” And, when it comes to that - how about the rest of the 10 commandments - how are we doing with those?

The Sabbath is a wonderful day - to be able to dedicate it to worship and study without the nitty gritty of life getting in the way - not as a club used against other Christians.


I have shared Sabbath issue with over 100 SUNday pastors starting in 1975 with a prominent mega-church pastor.

Sabbath = PRE Jew Gen 2:3, 8:10&12
Sabbath is for those other than Jews (IS 56:6)
Jesus said Sabbath was made for man (didn’t say just Jews)
Paul promoted Sabbath for gentiles (Acts 13:44)

There is more exposure to Sabbath in 4 gospels than all the other 9 commandments put together. Matt 12, MK 2 &3 Luke 6,13,14,23, JN 5,7 & 9

Those who are Matt 5:19 commandment crunchers need to review Rom 8:7 & 10:21

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Well you seem to accept the Babylonian Sabbath cycle, and I agree I think that is in fact what existed at that time for the Jews as well. If you are steeped in a culture of the new Moon starting the weekly cycle, then there is no contradiction in dealing with the few odd days at the end of each month. You still work 6 days and rest on the Seventh, its just you have the monthly excitement of looking for (and arguing over) the occurrence of the new Moon, which then starts the weekly cycles for another month. And you don’t worry about the spare days at the end of each month, those are the days were you are looking for the reset from the Moon.

But Adventism is SURE that there was a separate 7-day cycle that has gone in unbroken cycles from creation until now, and that this was and always has been independent of the lunar cycle, and that the lunar Sabbaths are something entirely different. There isn’t historical evidence for this.

BTW, did you know that after returning to Jerusalem, the Jews would determine the new Moon there, and then communicate via hilltop to hilltop bonfires all the way back to the Jews in Babylon, so that they would be on the same day schedule. Then apparently the Samaritans took to doing bonfires on different days, to confuse the Jews in Babylon. Fun and games…


Yes, I did know that, but I thought that might be too much information for the sceptics.

Until someone unearths a clay tablet with a series of seven lines where the seventh has a circle around it - and dated around year 1 BC :smile: I have my doubts.

I just want us to get real and stop compartmentalizing our beliefs.


Something we as Seventh day Adventists HAVE NEVER talked about.
**** God is a God of REST.
**** God BEGAN Creation days with REST before “Work”, Creating anything.
**** The 7th day is a day of REST for everyone and everything in every home.
**** There is REST for the land on a scheduled time.
**** There is REST for slaves and servants indentured to masters on scheduled
**** There is REST from the burden of DEBT on scheduled times.
God is a God of REST. No workaholic behavior.
**** VACATION times four times a year. Again, Scheduled! REST!
Some of these actually REQUIRED the people to LEAVE the house, their
land, their towns and get away From It All.

God thought it SO IMPORTANT that slaves who were used to working 365 days a year
without a day off for them to REST, He threatened dire punishment for NOT taking the
day off.
They were NOT used to NOT working. They had to learn NEW activity behavior patterns.
Some were very slow to learn.

The SDA picture of the Sabbath is this – "If you don’t keep the 7th day Sabbath correctly,
Hell is waiting for you – with the Beast and Friends."
We SDA’s do not have a Liturgy of Happy Sabbath Keeping.


This argument is very poor, because it is based on “silence.” I mean, almost like a boy with $1 feeling very rich among other kids that have no money at all.

I am not against Sabbath keeping. But I sure see that there is something wrong with the NT missing real emphasis on the issue. And worse, as far as I know, there is no fight recorded between Sabbath keepers and those who rested and worshiped on Sundays.

So the info in the NT is below minimal, and there was no discussion of the issue, which appears to be a sign of agreement on Sunday observance as celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

Also, what could ever be more important to be celebrated than Jesus’ resurrection? Nothing, in my opinion!


The SDA picture also includes a lot of work…it wasn’t restful unless you stayed home! Getting up early to get ready for church, (especially if there were children to get ready) and for the women in particular, getting dressed is much more involved than it is for men. Then, there might be a little rest if no one was coming over for lunch, or you weren’t going somewhere for lunch, or you weren’t working getting a potluck ready, then cleaning it up.

No, I never found Sabbath to be very restful unless we stayed home, or went to the mountains (or wherever) and left the “work” behind.

My husband worked for the church, so we were expected to be there a lot. Not as much freedom as the average member.


Steve, I believe this is the critical point. Starting in Genesis 2 and the first few verses, it was God who rested in the finished work of creation. That seventh day was not delineated by “and the evening and the morning were the seventh day.” This first day of the finished creation was blessed and sanctified because God rested from all His work which God created and made.

There is but one reference in the New Testament, under the New Covenant, to this seventh day of creation and we all know it is in Hebrews 4. His works were finished from the foundation of the world because on the seventh day God rested from all His works. God did not enter a weekly cycle of work and rest. That was created for man at the time of God’s choosing. Man was not made for the Sabbath.

But the message of Hebrews 4 is that men and women were always meant to enter God’s rest. Joshua failed to give the people rest. Human beings have been so hard hearted that we have failed to enter God’s rest, that is, until we finally realised that through Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen, that the only way for us to enter God’s rest is through the gospel of grace, through the forgiveness and cleansing that is ours through the precious blood of Christ.

True rest, rest for our souls can only come from Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:9 uses the seventh-day sabbath as a metaphor for entering God’s rest which we conclude is an eternal rest. Why does this verse not use the Geek word “sabbaton?” All other references to Sabbath in the NT use it. Why “sabbatismos” in Heb 4:9? I know no Greek but I have the KJV and Strongs in e-Sword.

Clearly, we are talking about a sabbath-like rest in Heb 4:9. Like all old covenant symbols, the seventh-day Sabbath points to the rest we have in God through the gospel that is gifted to us by Jesus. Why then do we re-interpret “sabbaton” in the one use of the word in the NT after Acts? e-Sword counts 55 from the KJV, or if it is 69, why do we not interpret Col 2:16, 17 as the weekly Sabbath? To argue that the seventh day Sabbath is not a shadow is to argue that it is the reality together with or perhaps equal with Christ. Sadly, this is what many of us have done over the years.

I now begin to understand why it is that John in Revelation spoke of the Lord’s Day and not the Sabbath. We have been good at telling half of the story. Yes, the Jewish Christians continued to reverence the Sabbath, but from the earliest years, Gentile believers honoured the day of the resurrection. Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles in all of his instructions to the Gentile churches never gave one command or instruction on how to keep the Sabbath. In fact he never gave any teaching on keeping a particular day holy under the new covenant. In all the rebukes and lists of sins written to the Gentile churches never is there one rebuke over breaking the Sabbath or any other day.

History attests to the fact that for believers of all generations, both days have been honoured in various ways. It is modern Adventism that has used the seventh-day Sabbath to control its members and to rebuild the wall of partition that the gospel broke down. How often have I sat in church and been told that Sunday keepers are lost, even Billy Graham. There are preachers standing in our pulpits rightly teaching that the seal of God is not the Sabbath but the Holy Spirit. Steve is right, too often we have removed the true rest from the Sabbath

I know this post will not be well received by some. I do not deny anybody their joy and weekly rest from work in keeping the seventh day Sabbath but I do like to think we can accept that there are a lot of Christian Sunday keepers out there who worship on Sunday because the death and resurrection of Christ is everything to them and that they have not abolished the 10 commandments to get rid of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath can easily become an idol to Seventh-day Adventists, especially when we claim that the weekly day of rest from physical work is not a shadow pointing to the reality that we have in Christ and in God’s rest.


Since we are conversing about THE LAW —
Adventists DO NOT celebrate PENTECOST!
The Birthday of the “Christian” Church. Which will be on Sunday,
May 20.

Our Jewish Friends have a Holiday on that same week-end.
The finishing of counting 50 Omers from Passover.
Leaving Egypt and passing through the Red Sea was day ONE.
It took 50 more days to get to Sinai.
On DAY 50, the 10 Commandments were spoken to Israel.

So the Week-End of May 20 commemorates TWO Special Events
for the Whole World.
And Seventh day Adventists USUALLY IGNORE them both!!


A good point was made about the problem with the idea of weekly Sabbath keeping, as seen in the Isaiah 66 vision of the new heavens and the new earth. Of course, one must also keep the new moon festivals, there will also be old people dying at ripe old ages, the inhabitants will be treading on the blood of their enemies, and Gentile kings will be coming with their wealth to Jerusalem in order to pay tribute to YHWH as king, if one takes this passage literally.

When considering all of this, it becomes obvious that what Isaiah was being shown in vision about the new age was Israel-centric, and that it is certainly not a one to one correspondence with the hope of the Messianic kingdom as outlined in the NT. The idea that the Sabbath will be kept in the age to come cannot be supported from this passage, unless one accepts everything else in this text in a totally literal fashion, and also accepts that we should still be keeping new moon feasts as Christians, now, and in the age to come.

The article itself also makes the point that Jesus’ own Sabbath keeping was independent of his missionary and preaching ministry, using this as support for the continual obligation of seventh day Sabbath keeping for Christians. This simply ignores the reality that Paul states in Galatians, that Jesus was, “…born of a woman, born under the Law…” IOW, Jesus was born and lived as a Torah observant Jew, among Torah observant Jews. What else do we think Jesus would do in that religious and cultural context?

What is also ignored is that there isn’t a shred of instruction concerning Sabbath keeping for Gentile converts in any of the NT letters. Paul offers exhortation, correction, and moral instruction concerning a variety of issues for his converts, but never says a word about Sabbath keeping.

The one place that he does explicitly mention it is in Colossians 2:16. It is here that he tells the Colossian church that on the basis of their certificate of debt to God having been cancelled, nailed to the cross, and in light of the fact that Jesus disarmed every accusing power and led them in triumph though his cross, that they were to, “… let no-one judge (them) regarding…festivals, New Moons, or Sabbaths. These are a shadow of things to come, but the reality is Christ.” Adventists like to say that this involves only ceremonial sabbaths. This is a poor argument, and simply inaccurate. The OT uses this order seven times, both backwards and forwards, to list the yearly, monthly, and weekly celebrations/ holy days to be observed under the Torah. This includes the weekly Sabbath, with the plural often being used to refer to it.

Whether we like hearing it or not, Paul is saying that the Sabbath is a shadow that pointed to a greater reality, Christ himself and the rest of the messianic age that he had already inaugurated. That rest is based on the person of Christ, and faith in him, not on the observance of a day. The Sabbath, instead of being the final, separating sign and seal of God’s people, should thus be regarded as a non essential practice over which Christians should not judge one another nor divide.

In fact, the seal of God’s ownership of his people, according to the NT, is the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and fellowship. And, the visible manifestation of that is the fruit that the Spirit produces… the self giving, welcoming, and other centered love and community in Christ that can only come by the power of the Spirit. A love that is without partiality and without prejudice. A love that cuts across all the divides of race, gender, social status, class and religious traditions, and brings all these different people to the same common table around Jesus. This is in line with what Jesus himself said, "They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another. " This is the identifying mark of the people of God.

It would be wonderful if we could get off of insisting on our rightness and Christian identity over non essentials, and make it our business to pursue this type of inclusive love and unity with others who worship God and have faith in Christ, whether they are Sabbath keepers or not.




Like Baptism, the last supper, or foot washing the Sabbath is a symbol. It represents the rest we find in Jesus. Baptism doesn’t literally kill and resurrect the believer, but is a symbol of joining in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The last supper isn’t eating the literal human flesh and blood of Jesus, but symbolically joining with Jesus. The Sabbath is a symbol of the rest we find in Jesus. A weekly reminder that we are saved by grace and not works of the law.


Reading the SS quarterly I felt uncomfortable by the Tuesday and Wednesday sections. I feel that thoughtful Christians who come to a different conclusion than SDAs are not well represented.

  • The fact that in Paul’s writings the term “law” is not equal to the Decalogue is not mentioned. (e.g. 1 Cor 14:21.34)

  • Bible verses that oppose traditional SDA doctrine and that are relevant to the topic of Sabbath keeping in the Christian dispensation are not cited (e.g. 2. Cor 3:3-18). Only the alleged transfer of Sabbath to Sunday observance is mentioned but not that most Christians don’t view Sunday sacredness in the same way as SDAs understand Sabbath sacredness. In V. 6 Paul says we are not ministers of the letter - which in the context are the 10 commandments. Isn’t this very radical?

  • I have heard numerous times that God’s law cannot be changed - which directly opposes Hebrews 7:12.

When I read this week’s lesson, I feel that the believers are given a new pep talk for Sabbath observance without a full picture of what the NT has to say about this subject.

Here’s a link from Grace Communion International on the 10 Commandments and the Law:

The Sabbath in Acts and the Epistles