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The Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday

Written by Prof Johan Malan.

There is a growing movement among certain Christians, even evangelicals, to revert to the Old Testament law, including the law on Sabbath-keeping. This movement is prompting many questions on the so-called ‘universal applicability’ of the Sabbath. The basic question is: “How should the Old Testament Sabbath (the seventh day of the week) be distinguished from the New Testament resurrection day of Christ (the first day of the week)?” Many people are still not certain about this distinction and, under the influence of Seventh-day Adventist thinking, even allege that worship services on Sundays are unbiblical, having been introduced centuries later by the Roman Catholic Church. What are the true facts?

There are also other considerations for Sabbath-keeping: In recent years the Hebrew Roots Movement originated among certain groups of Christians who are intent on forging closer ties with Israel on the ceremonial level. It is their main objective to explore the Jewish roots of the Christian faith in the people of Israel, and also in their Old Testament laws and feasts. In the process, conformity to Israel and their religious traditions becomes the major thrust of their religious development – rather than conformity to the Jesus and His teachings as expounded in the New Testament.

A consequence of this new orientation is that Judaic reforms in which some of Israel’s ceremonial laws are observed – including the Sabbath on the seventh day, reckoned from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown. Some of these non-Jewish Christians eventually come to regard themselves as Jews and start using only the Hebrew names for God and Christ. The tragic aspect of this new orientation is that they put themselves under the law.

In this article we will examine the allegation that the Bible imposes the Old Testament law on Christians, including the Sabbath law.

The significance of the Sabbath

After His works of creation the Lord rested on the seventh day and hallowed it. He also commanded Israel not to do any work on the seventh day but to rest on it (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:8-11).

In Leviticus 23 where the religious feasts of Israel are introduced, the Sabbath is mentioned first. Apart from the aspect of rest, it is also qualified as a sacred assembly, i.e. a day of special dedication to the Lord (Lev. 23:2-3). As for the sacrifices, it was a day of increased religious activity. Instead of one lamb, two lambs had to be sacrificed on this day, with a correlating increase in the amount of fine flour that was to be used (Num. 28:9-10). On the Sabbath, therefore, the Lord had to be worshipped more than on the other days. This was also the day when fresh loaves of bread which represented all the tribes were to be set out in the temple.  (Lev. 24:5-9).

Furthermore there was a third, specifically Jewish reason for the Sabbath as a sign between the Lord and Israel. Observing the Sabbath served the purpose of drawing the people’s attention to their exodus from Egypt (Deut. 5:15). They were also reminded through this sign that Lord is the One who sanctifies them (Ezek. 20:12). After their Babylonian exile, the Sabbath observance of the Jews became extremely distorted due to the addition of new prohibitions on things that were not to be done on this day. Because of their own interpretation of the Sabbath the Lord Jesus often clashed with them (cf. Matt. 12:1-8).

The New Testament day of the Lord

The weekly day of rest and spiritual dedication would get a deeper significance after the coming of the Lord Jesus and be celebrated as His day of resurrection. Two questions need to be asked in this regard: (1) Why is the New Testament day of the Lord the day after the Old Testament Sabbath?; and (2) Does the Old Testament give any indication of such a day after the Sabbath that would be of great significance in a future dispensation? There are clear answers to these two questions in Leviticus 23.

Firstly, there is great emphasis on both the meaning of the feast of First-fruits as well as the day on which it was to be celebrated: “Tell the Israelites, When you have come into the land I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest; and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, that you may be accepted; on the next day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it” (Lev. 23:10-11; Amplified Bible - AB).

In the Spring month when Jesus was crucified, the wave-offering of the sheaf of first-fruits was conducted on a Sunday morning – the day on which Jesus rose from the grave. It was the day after the Sabbath: “He rose early on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:9). The seed that had fallen in the ground (the death and burial of Jesus) gave its first fruit on the Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the grave. It also indicated the beginning of the harvest of souls, for the whole harvest that would be gathered after that offering would be acceptable to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Furthermore, it signalled the transition from the old covenant to the new. That is why it had to happen on a Sunday, the first day of the week and symbolically the beginning of a new dispensation. That is why the celebration of the special day of rest and dedication to the Lord was changed from the seventh to the first day of the week in the new dispensation of grace.

Because of the finished work of the Messiah, we can celebrate resurrection day every Sunday. We have entered into the new covenant with God through Him, and are therefore active partakers in the resurrection life of Jesus our Lord: “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is also vain... But now Christ has risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:14,20).

In view of these facts, the great significance of resurrection day is unambiguously confirmed in the New Testament. The same clarity of intent is evident from the statement on the day when it would occur, i.e. the day after the Sabbath. It was therefore prophetically determined that Jesus would rise from the dead on the first day of the week (that is a Sunday) and that, through this act, He would make the people acceptable to God.

Besides the Preparation Day and the Sabbath (Friday and Saturday) Israel did not have specific names for other days of the week during biblical times. They merely referred to the first or second day of the week, etc. The day after the Sabbath is sometimes referred to as the eighth day. Eight is the number of new things in the Bible since the eighth day is also the first day of a new week. In a wider context it refers to the first day of a new dispensation in God’s plan of salvation for humanity.

The fulfilment of the Feast of Pentecost, when the church of Christ was formally established, was also destined to occur on a Sunday: “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: Seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord” (Lev. 23:15‑16). The fulfilment of this Old Testament feast, also on a Sunday, was on the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out (Acts 2).

The Jews celebrate the onset of the dispensation of the law on Pentecost (derived from the Greek word pentecoste, meaning fiftieth). They believe that the people of Israel arrived at Sinai fifty days after their departure from Egypt. It was there that God gave Moses the law (Ex. 19:1‑3). It was for the celebration of this feast that the Jews from different countries gathered in Jerusalem on the day when the Holy Spirit descended. They did not realise that the Passover, the feast of the Unleavened Bread and the feast of the First-fruits had already been fulfilled through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, they did not realise that the dispensation of the law had been consummated. The new dispensation of grace, ministered by the Holy Spirit, was to replace it.

This was another example of God's perfect timing, since 40 days passed between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and another ten days while the disciples were praying and waiting for the Holy Spirit to be poured out. This total of 50 days is exactly the same as the time that expired between the wave offering of the sheaf of the First-fruits and the feast of Pentecost.

Did you notice that it was clearly through divine providence that the important acts of salvation between Christ’s resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit happened on Sundays? The first two occasions, when Christ met His disciples as a group after His resurrection and preached to them, were also on a Sunday. These events unquestionably indicate the prominence which Sunday-worship would enjoy in the new dispensation that had just begun. Consider the following basic facts:

Resurrection day. Jesus demonstrated His victory over death and the grave on a Sunday: “On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (John 20:1).

The first Christian assemblies during which Jesus ministered to His disciples were on a Sunday: “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, Peace be with you. Now when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Then Jesus said to them again, Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit… And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace to you!” (John 20:19-22,26). According to the Jews’ inclusive reckoning of time, the expression “after eight days” indicates exactly a week since both Sundays are counted.

Outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “Now when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting… And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-4). According to Leviticus 23:16 the feast of Pentecost was, since its inception, only celebrated on the first day of the week – the day after the Sabbath.

Against the backdrop of these events it is easily understood why the disciples and all members of the early Christian church spontaneously assembled on Sundays for worship services, to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and to contribute towards the Lord’s work: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7).

Profs. Walvoord & Zuck (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 412-413) comment as follows on Acts 20:7: “This is the clearest verse in the New Testament which indicates that Sunday was the normal meeting day of the apostolic church. Paul stayed in Troas for seven days (v.6) and the church met on the first day of the week. Luke’s method of counting days here was not Jewish, which measures from sundown to sundown, but Roman, which counted from midnight to midnight. This can be stated dogmatically because daylight (v.11) was the next day (v.7). Probably the church met at night because most people had to work during the day. Because Paul was leaving them, possibly for the final time, he prolonged his discourse until midnight.”

From the earliest times it was also customary to collect financial offerings for the work of the Lord during Sunday services. Paul said, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collection when I come” (1 Cor. 16:1-2).

Since we are not under the law, giving by church members is not described as “tithing”. Commenting on 1 Cor. 16:1-2, Walvoord & Zuck (ibid. p. 546) say: “Giving should be a systematic weekly practice on Sunday when the church meets together. Giving was to be proportionate – in keeping with one’s income (cf. Acts 11:29).”

A special day of dedication

There is also another indication in the Old Testament of a special day which the Lord would make to the glory of His name. That is related to the coming of the Messiah. Although He would be rejected by His own people He was destined to be the resurrection and life to millions of people on earth: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner-stone. This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:22-24). In Acts 4:10-11 Peter confirms that Jesus who was crucified and raised from the dead is the stone which was rejected by Israel’s leaders, but became a chief corner-stone in God’s kingdom. His resurrection is celebrated every Sunday as the day of the Lord. This is the day over which we should rejoice and be glad: He has risen from the dead – He lives!

In documentation on the early Christian church there is extensive evidence that Christians always celebrated the day of the Lord on Sundays. They called it the Lord’s holy day and assembled on this day to proclaim the Word, sing spiritual hymns, to pray and to partake in Holy Communion.

Dr. David King (The Imperial Bible Dictionary, p. 112-113) says: “The great claim of this day on religious veneration is that Christ rose from the dead on it. His resurrection was an event with highly significant and joyful consequences. It ended His humiliation and demonstrated acceptance of His sacrifice by the Father. It was the confirmation of His title as Mediator and ensured the salvation of his followers. To be able to better comprehend the precedence of this day, Christ’s position on the first day should be compared to that on the preceding seventh day. During the Jewish Sabbath He was in the grave, but on the first day He broke the bonds of death, ‘whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it’ (Acts 2:24).”

The early church fathers all confirm the fact of Sunday worship as a common institution. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, wrote in 110 AD: “Those among us who obtained the new hope no longer keep the Sabbath but the day of the Lord on which we arose from the dead in Him, so that we can be recognised as disciples of Jesus Christ.” Justin Martyr (100-165 AD), a disciple of John, wrote: “On Sundays all people in the cities and rural areas assembles in one place where the reports of the apostles and the writings of the prophets were read… Sunday is the day of our general assemblies as this was the day when God made the earth and created light out of darkness. Jesus Christ, our Saviour, rose from the dead on the same day. Irenaeus said in about 78 AD that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus could only be celebrated on the day of the Lord, which is the first day of the week. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (200-258) said that the day of the Lord is both the first and eighth day. The eighth day is the first day of a new week.

Peter, bishop of Alexandria, said in about 300: “We observe the day of the Lord as a day of rejoicing as He rose on this day.” The church father Eusebius, said around 315 AD: “Since apostolic times until now, churches everywhere in the world, ended their periods of fasting on the resurrection day of the Lord… At meetings an ecclesiastical rule was determined that the resurrection of Lord was only to be celebrated on the day of Lord (Sunday).” This tradition started on the day of Jesus’ resurrection and is still honoured today. It did not have a dubious origin during later centuries.

The Judaisation of early believers

Acts 15 reports on a church meeting in Jerusalem where the question was discussed by prominent apostles whether Gentile believers should comply with the demands of Judaisers. These people demanded that all believers be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses in order to be saved. That means that the observing of the entire law, including the Sabbath, was proclaimed as a necessary basis for justification – not only faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (cf. Gal. 5:3-4).

However, the Jerusalem Council arrived at the conclusion that believers from Israel and the nations are saved in the same way, i.e. by faith in the Lord Jesus – not by the works of the law (Acts 15:7-11). Gentile believers were not subjected to the law but only asked “to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:20). These prohibitions are moral principles which also form part of Christian morality.

Profs. Walvoord & Zuck (ibid., p. 395) explain these prohibitions as follows: “The reference to food polluted by idols should be taken in the sense of Revelation 2:14,20. It was a usual practice among Gentiles to use an idol’s temple for banquets and celebrations. Paul also condemned the practice of Christians participating in these (1 Cor. 10:14-22). Fornication was such a common sin among the Gentiles that it was an accepted practice. The problem of immorality even persisted among Christians all too often, as witnessed by the New Testament injunctions against it. The third prohibition goes back… to Genesis 9, where God established the Noahic Covenant, a ‘contract’ still in effect today. There God gave people the privilege of eating flesh but the blood was to be drained from it.”

These basic moral principles were given to the young Christian churches, but not the Old Testament law. The crucial issue to be noted in this doctrinal statement is that both Jews and Gentiles received the Holy Spirit to convict them of sin, to regenerate them, to give them power in their struggle against evil, and to guide them into all truth: “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us” (Acts 15:8). In the New Covenant people’s lives are not judged by the law which they are expected to observe, but they are convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit. They receive remission of their sins by faith in Jesus Christ who died to atone for their sin. The Lord Jesus expects us to remain true to Him, to walk in the Spirit and refrain from grieving Him, while we grow up spiritually to the stature of the mature man or woman in Christ (Eph. 4:13-14,30). He never commanded His disciples to develop observance of the Old Testament law as a Christian virtue – neither does He expect of us today to pursue the works of the law such as circumcision and observing the Sabbath.

Shadow and substance

The Sabbaths, feasts and sacrifices of the Old Testament, as well as the sabbatical year every seventh year (Lev. 25:3-4), were all shadowy practices that pointed to the new dispensation that would dawn with the coming of the Messiah. These shadows would be finally fulfilled in Him, as He is the “substance” to which they refer. We enter the rest of the Lord in the Messiah as He has fulfilled the entire law. “Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Col. 2:16-17). We are no longer under the obligation of laws on food, festivals and Sabbaths which were mere shadows of the Messianic dispensation which has long ago been introduced.

We should find gladness, joy and spiritual fulfilment in the Lord Jesus and celebrate His resurrection as a special day of the Lord without complicating it by legalistic requirements. He only gave us one law, and that is the law of love – love towards God and our neighbour. “For the commandments, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal… and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbour as yourself… therefore love is the fulfilment of the law” (Rom. 13:9-10). The law on the Sabbath is therefore also fulfilled when we love God through Jesus Christ.

Love is the fulfilment of the entire law – that includes ceremonial as well as moral laws. According to the Strong’s Concordance, the word “fulfil” means “to finish (a period or task), to accomplish, end, or conclude.” The law was not undone by Christ, but fulfilled. The love of God is poured out into our hearts through regeneration and the filling of the Holy Spirit, and the principles of His law of love are written on the tablets of our hearts. In the new dispensation we are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). The profound effect of God’s grace through Jesus Christ is vastly more superior in the life of a believer than the moral obligations and fear for punishment instilled by the law. Through the cleansing by the blood of Christ and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit we lead a life in which the image of God becomes manifest in all aspects of our life. That is the resurrection life of Jesus Christ to which we should become conformed (Rom. 6:5; Phil. 3:10).

In this new life we must move from victory to victory. We should stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and not be entangled again by a yoke of bondage to the law (Gal. 5:1). We should not pursue shadowy laws and Sabbaths which do not come close to the glory that has been revealed to us in the new dispensation. It is a pity if people revert to the former things. Paul says to the legalistic Galatians: “But now after you have known God… how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years” (Gal. 4:9-10).

Profs. Walvoord & Zuck (ibid., p. 602) say the following on Gal. 4:10: “Under the influence of the Judaisers the Galatians had begun to observe the Mosaic calendar. They kept special days (weekly Sabbaths), and months (new moons), and seasons (seasonal festivals) and years (sabbatical and jubilee years). They observed these special times, thinking that they would thereby gain additional merit before God. But Paul had already made it clear that works could not be added to faith as grounds for either justification or sanctification.”

End-time compromise

The spirit of Judaising again revived after Israel’s restoration as a modern state. The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem released a musical, The Covenant, in Hebrew and English. One of the Jews who was deeply touched by this presentation reacted as follows: “If Christians know so much about Jewish traditions they should begin observing the Sabbath with greater reverence.”

It would be a pity if only orthodox sentiments were strengthened by this musical, as that implies that the message of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and the nations was not proclaimed. If we do not succeed in persuading Jews to worship the Messiah with us and to celebrate His resurrection from the dead, we have spiritually not achieved anything. To participate with Jews in feasts in which the Messiah is not explicitly recognised, honoured and served, amounts to compromise and even the outright denial of the Messiah.

We should be prepared to go outside the camp of Judaism and bear the reproach of the Messiah if we wish to be of service to Him and His kingdom, and also to promote the salvation of Jews (Heb. 13:13). Jesus said, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Matt. 11:6). But the Jews were often offended at Him (Matt. 13:57; 15:12). Why? Because the misplaced basis for their justification is the works of the law, and not faith in the Messiah and His work of atonement. Paul says, “For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (Rom. 9:32-33).

We must continue proclaiming the Messiah to Israel and the Gentiles despite the most severe opposition that our message might elicit. Part of this message is the celebration of the Messiah’s crucifixion and resurrection from the dead. If we do it in a convincing manner the Jews will be provoked to jealousy (Rom. 11:11). They should be made to see that we have something which they with their legalism and orthodox Sabbath celebrations do not have. It will be of no avail if we become jealous of Israel’s ceremonial laws and feasts and start observing them, because to the Jews Jesus Christ has no place in these institutions. We cannot be witnesses to the Messiah in this way as that would constitute reverting from the fulfilled reality to the Old Testament shadow.

Sunday worship

Worshipping on Sundays is not enforced or complicated by any laws. It is to all people’s advantage that this tradition be honoured. This day can be distinguished as follows from the other days of the week:

  • Resurrection day of Jesus is the New Testament’s day of rest.
  • It is a day of joy in the Lord.
  • It is a day of showing special honour to the Lord.
  • It is a day of participating in and giving for the proclaiming of the Gospel.
  • It is a day of spiritual preparation for the week that lies ahead.
  • It is a day of showing charity to others and supplying in their needs.
  • It is a day of spiritual refreshing.

The idea is not to split hairs over rules that apply to this day but to demonstrate the general spirit and character of this day in your life. The day of the Lord has been given to you to enjoy the advantages that it offers to you. This applies to all people as all of them at least need one day on which they can rest from their secular work: “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” (Mark. 2:27-28). In Him we enter the eternal rest of the Lord. The spiritual rest and deepening that we need, as well as worshipping the Lord, are the main purposes of the Sunday. This rest only became a reality after the Messiah rose from the dead on a Sunday and, seven weeks later, again on a Sunday, the Holy Spirit was poured out.

It is conspicuous that in our time, which is characterised in all spheres of life by a reckless spirit of apostatising, there is mounting criticism against the observing of Sunday as a Christian day of rest and special dedication to the Lord. Many of these critics come from so-called Christian churches, and they now join hands with worldly people to convert Sunday into a day strenuous sporting day, a day for worldly pleasure, as well as a day for working and shopping. What will become of people if they continue without a day of rest and spiritual dedication?

Do not fall prey to the end-time spirit of compromise by rejecting or disdaining the Christian Sunday. On the other hand, you should guard against determining a strict set of rules through which a dark cloud of do’s and don’ts are imposed upon this Christian feast and God-given day of rest. Spend the day to the glory of God and be spiritually enriched and strengthened for the challenges that lie ahead. Have a rest after all the activities of the week and regain your bodily strength. Exhausted people are not productive and are unable to successfully handle crises and tension.

Do not feel guilty about essential work that needs to be done on this day; neither neglect doing good on Sundays if it is within your power (Matt. 12:11-12). Above all the Name of the Lord should be exalted and your relationship with Him strengthened by a double measure of dedication.

Present campaign by the SDA

The Seventh-day Adventists (SDA) are involved in an intensive campaign to promote their church’s view on the Old Testament Sabbath among as many South Africans as possible. DVD’s by Prof. Walter Veith are distributed everywhere among the public, also at meetings of Angus Buchan where unsuspecting people who leave through the gates are offered a gift parcel from the SDA.

I wish to advise those who have been influenced by Walter Veith to thoroughly investigate his theology. Even the SDA themselves are deeply divided on his teachings. On one of their websites (www.thejerichoroad.com) Jan McKenzie expresses great concern over Veith’s strong emphasis on conspiracy theories, secret societies and the Roman Catholic Church – to such an extent that very little is said on the Gospel of the cross. McKenzie adds, “In much of what Veith says he is simply wrong… I find it unimaginable that a man calling himself a Christian teacher has so very little to say about his Lord.”

But in this article we mainly took issue with their understanding of the Sabbath. All biblical facts which contradict the SDA’s view are avoided by them, or otherwise they revert to the dispensation of the law to find justification for their views. They commit a serious error of judgement to equate New Testament expressions such as ‘the commandments of Christ’ (cf. John 14:15,21) with the Old Testament law and to wrongly read the Sabbath into them. The commandments of Christ refer to love, peace, obedience, forgivingness, service to the Lord, prayer and various other matters. He never included Sabbath-keeping and other Old Testament laws in His commands.

There is extensive historical evidence on Sunday worship by the early Christian church, but the SDA rejects it and still alleges that that Sunday worship was only introduced centuries later by the Roman Catholic Church. They clearly also dispute Paul’s reference to religious assemblies, including Holy Communion, on the first day of the week (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).

The SDA has a strange preoccupation with worshipping the Lord Jesus on Saturdays. They show very little understanding of New Testament theology after the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, as well as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the process they detract from the New Testament Gospel of the cross and engage in endless disputes. Various unnecessary and bitter family quarrels have been caused by Walter Veith’s DVD’s. Seemingly, the message on the crucifixion and grace of Jesus Christ is not sufficient to them – it still has to be supplemented by the law and the Sabbath. Their campaign should be viewed as one of the major threats to evangelical Christianity in our country.

This church is so inspired by their false supposition on the continuation of the Sabbath after the Lord Jesus has delivered us from the law and established us in the Gospel of grace by His Holy Spirit (Rom. 10:4), that various wonderful promises in the New Testament are overlooked. In this regard they greatly impoverish themselves spiritually. In terms of the unbiblical replacement theology which they practise the SDA see themselves as the New Testament continuation of Israel. They reject the promise of the rapture as an escape from the judgements of the tribulation period (Luke 21:36); consequently, they are expecting all the horrors of the tribulation period. They see an expected ban on Saturday worship as the beginning of “Christian” persecution. What a lamentable situation!

I wish to advise them to follow Paul’s example by only proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). If they wish to glory in something they should not glory in their church or in the Sabbath, but glory “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). The New Testament injunction is to stand firm in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and not to be entangled again by a yoke of bondage to the law (Gal. 5:1). I would further advise the SDA to conduct an intensive study of the books of Romans and Galatians in order to achieve greater clarity on our relationship to the law. However, a study of this nature will call for a changed name and dogma for this church!

We should rather remind people that the law was not given to Christians but to unsaved sinners (1 Tim. 1:9). To them it is a tutor to bring them to Christ (Gal. 3:24-25). In Jesus Christ there is no room for legalism as that would totally destroy our testimony about Jesus as our only Saviour: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). This scripture is obviously not mentioned in Sabbatarian churches or either not discussed in its full implications.

We must realise that the Gospel of the grace of Christ is vastly more important than the law of the Old Testament. We have the advantage of the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgement, and also guides us into all truth. Christ cleanses us with His blood and sanctifies us by His Spirit who instils in us the nature of the Lord Jesus. If people fail to realise that this is all they need, and then revert to an Old Testament form of law observance, they would deny the sufficiency of the Gospel of the cross. Do not yield to the temptation to do that. The law was completely fulfilled by Jesus Christ and He leads us into a life of holiness and conformity to Himself.

PS. It is of the utmost importance that you should be fully convinced in your mind that Christians who return to the law are in error. Investigate the matter more thoroughly by also reading the following articles:

We cannot be under Law and under Grace

The Greatness of God’s Love and Grace