The Sabbath Issue

Chapter 6. The Sabbath: Moral or Ceremonial Law?

We have seen that the standard argument for the Sabbath Law is a denial that the whole Law of Moses has passed away, but rather that only the Ceremonial part of the Law has passed away. Now although we have refuted this assumption that you can divide the Law like this, let us for the sake of argument follow this logic and see where it takes us. If the Sabbath Law was Moral Law like the rest of the 10 Commandments, then this would be a justification for mandatory Sabbath Observance. However it is clearly different in nature to the rest of the 10 Commandments. The Sabbath Law is by nature Ceremonial Law, not Moral Law (unlike the rest of the 10 Commandments), and so even on this logic, as Ceremonial Law, the Sabbath Law is now fulfilled and has passed away in Christ, and is therefore no longer operative in the New Covenant. 

Since this is such a vital issue and a linch-pin to the whole Sabbath argument, this Chapter is devoted to proving beyond question that the Sabbath Law is Ceremonial and not Moral Law.

We will see this from 9 different Viewpoints, which all agree in proving that the Sabbath Law is Ceremonial in nature. 

*Viewpoint 1. The Origin of the Sabbath. Whereas the MORAL Law of God is based on His nature and is eternal, transcending time and all covenants, circumstances and local conditions; the Sabbath Law, by nature and definition, is temporal and creational (not eternal), being based on the 7 days of Creation (Exodus 20:8-11). There is no time in eternity, but Sabbath is based on earth-time, marking one day in seven, so it is clearly temporal and creational. 

Mark 2:27,28: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” 

Here Jesus was clearly correcting the error of the Jewish Rabbis who elevated the Sabbath above man as eternal Moral Law. He points out that the Sabbath Law is not eternal, but that it it was made (created) - for man. It came after the Creation of man and was made for the sake of man, as man’s servant, so that Christ is Lord of the Sabbath, as He is Lord of everything that pertains to His Creation. Moral Law is before man and above man, but the Sabbath Law came after man, exists for man and so is under man, so that it is a Man (the Son of Man) who is Lord of the Sabbath! 

Moreover the Sabbath started at Moses - if it was a Moral Commandment it would have applied from the beginning. Therefore, based on the Sabbath’s Origins, the Sabbath must be categorised as temporal Ceremonial Law, not as eternal Moral Law.

*Viewpoint 2 - The Nature of the Sabbath. 
The status of the Sabbath can also be deduced by considering our CONSCIENCE - the consciousness of absolute Moral Law, which God has put within each man (even though it is dimmed by sin). Our CONSCIENCE testifies to the truth of Moral Law, which includes 9/10 Commandments, as being obvious, self-evident truth and right (even if we fail to uphold them). However it is different for the Sabbath Law, which is of an entirely different NATURE. Clearly, man’s conscience is not at all aware that he is morally obliged to make every Saturday a day of rest. Therefore the Sabbath had to be specially revealed to man through Moses. The Gentiles generally were not aware of any moral duty to rest on the 7th Day. Man’s conscience does not naturally tell him that he is being immoral, if he does some work on a Saturday, whereas it would convict him of sin, if he broke any of the other 9 Commandments. Therefore our God-given conscience tells us that by its very nature, the Sabbath is not absolute Moral Law.

*Viewpoint 3. The Requirements of the Sabbath are ceremonial in nature. The Law treats the Sabbath as ceremonial in nature by its requirements. Adultery is always wrong whatever day of the week. But things forbidden on the Sabbath (work) are not only okay, but commended on other days. So they cannot be moral requirements. 
*Viewpoint 4 -The Prophets treated it as Ceremonial Law.

Isaiah 1:13: “Bring no more futile sacrifice, incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the SABBATHS, and the calling of assemblies - I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts, My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.”
Here God counts all the SABBATHS along with the rest of the Ceremonial Law, when He tells Israel not to bother keeping it (even though He had ordained it), because it has no value to Him with Israel in sin. However God would never command Israel to stop keeping any of the Moral Law! The Sabbaths must be Ceremonial.

Hosea 2:11: “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, Her feast days, Her New Moons, Her Sabbaths -all her appointed feasts.” 
Again God classifies the Sabbaths among the Ceremonial Laws, and who are we to do otherwise? According to this prophecy, it is God Who will cause Israel’s Sabbaths to cease for a period of time. That is, He will cancel His Sabbath Command to Israel. He fulfilled this prophecy by annulling the Old Covenant and bringing in the New Covenant for this Dispensation, which has no Sabbath Law. Now it is not possible for God to cause His Moral Law to cease or pass away, as it is eternal and unchanging. Therefore all the thing mentioned in this verse (including the Sabbaths) are Ceremonial. 

*Viewpoint 5. Jesus treated the Sabbath as Ceremonial Law.
A key difference between Moral and Ceremonial Law is that Moral Law is absolute, whereas Ceremonial Law can be broken, especially when it comes into conflict with Moral Law. It is clear that in the Gospels, Jesus treated the Sabbath as Ceremonial Law (saying it was breakable under certain circumstances), rather than as absolute, unbreakable Moral Law. In this, He differed from the Pharisees. This was the source of many of His conflicts with them. 

Mark 2:23-28: “Now it happened that He went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the High Priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the Priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” (also Matthew 12:1-8, Luke 6:1-5). In His disputes with the Pharisees about how to keep the Sabbath, He consistently treated it as Ceremonial Law. He pointed out from 

Old Testament examples that the Sabbath Law was not absolute Moral Law, because there are occasions when it is right and proper to break this Law, especially when it conflicted with the Moral Law (of Love). Therefore they were wrong to apply it as if it were absolute Moral Law. Rather they should always consider whether there was moral justification for breaking the (ceremonial) Sabbath Law. When He said: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”, He could not have made this any clearer! 

The Pharisees wrongly taught that Israel was made for the Sabbath, thus making the Sabbath absolute Moral Law, that was then used to put men into bondage, through much detailed regulation. Jesus said that they missed the very point of the Sabbath, which was to help and bless Israel by providing a special day for her to remember her Creator and Covenant, and to enter into His rest (receive His grace). 

“The Sabbath was made for man.” As with other ceremonial revelations to Israel that she embodied in her lifestyle (such as the Feasts), all mankind has been blessed by the Sabbath Principle, even if it is not for us to practice as Law. The Sabbath Principle of taking WEEKLY REST is a wonderful revelation of God’s wisdom for man, that God has given to all mankind through Israel. It has been experimentally shown that man works best when he has a weekly day of rest, so all nations have universally adopted this. 

David Showbread-ok break ceremonial law if moral law requires
Oral law -conflict-traditions of men - Talmud
Circumcision on the Sabbath means ceremonial circumcision overrides the Sabbath. Therefore the Sabbath is Ceremonial.
John 7:22-23: “Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me, because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?”

*Viewpoint 6. Its Practices. The Sabbath had various Ceremonial Laws related to it, e.g. the Ceremony of the Showbread and special Sabbatical Sacrifices (Leviticus 24:8, Numbers 28:9), confirming its status as Ceremonial Law, in the same way as the Feasts.

*Viewpoint 7. The New Testament confirms it is Ceremonial Law
If the Sabbath Law was Moral Law, it would have also been included in the New Testament, but it is not, in contrast to all the other 9 Commandments, which are all clearly moral. Although Jesus kept the Sabbath as a Jew who lived under the Law before the Cross, that is no basis for us to keep the Sabbath today. Although He gave us many Commandments for the new dispensation, He never gave the Sabbath Law. Not only is it absent from the teaching of Jesus, but also from the teaching of His Apostles. This would be a glaring omission if it were a vital moral Commandment that we had to keep. This is especially true, with all the Gentiles coming into the Church, who were not used to keeping the Sabbath. If it was an eternal Moral Law, then it would be a major New Testament teaching, and one of the main things that would have had to be taught to new converts. If the Sabbath was Law for us now, it would surely be in the New Testament. The absence of the Sabbath Law in the New Testament means it must be Ceremonial.


In fact, when the issue arose concerning what parts of the Law of Moses the Gentile converts should keep, there was a Church Council to decide the issue (Acts 15:1-29) and the Sabbath was not even mentioned. When the leaders gave the list of requirements for believing Gentiles to keep, the Sabbath was not included, in fact there was nothing specifically from the Law of Moses that was given for the believing Gentiles to keep. If God want New Testament Gentile believers to obey the Sabbath then surely it would have been brought up in Acts 15 (see also pages 37-41). 

The Council in Acts 15 firstly addressed circumcision (v1), but this also necessarily also involved the keeping of the whole Law (v5). 
Peter argued against imposing the Law of Moses on Gentiles (v10): “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke (the Law) on the neck of the (Gentile) disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Peter’s point won the day, for in the summing up (v19-21), the Gentiles were not required to come under the Law of Moses, only to follow laws that had been previously given to mankind (especially in the Noahic Covenant). 
So Gentile Believers were not required to be circumcised or to keep the Law of Moses, including the Sabbath Law. If the Sabbath was mandatory, it would have been mentioned here, but on the contrary the implication is clear that Gentiles are not under the Sabbath Law.

Therefore the Sabbath Law is absent in the New Testament and this must mean that it is Ceremonial Law, not Moral Law.

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