Mosaic Law

3 Reasons Sunday Is Not the Sabbath

From Philippe de Champaigne's Moses with the Ten Commandments

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

Here are three reasons why I teach that Christians are not under the Sabbath law of the Old Testament, and that it is unwise to call Sunday “the Christian Sabbath.”

I am a dispensationalist

The Sabbath restrictions are found in the Old Testament and are part of the law given to Israel as they entered the Promised Land. The fourth commandment makes clear that the Sabbath law applies to anyone in Israel, regardless of their own personal convictions about the legitimacy of the Covenant. In other words, in OT Israel, just because a person didn’t believe in Yahweh, didn’t mean that they could break the Sabbath. It was a basic component of Israelite Law given to the members of the Old Covenant for their time in the Promised Land.

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“By Which a Man May Live”: The Meaning of Leviticus 18:5

Detail from Rembrandt's "Moses with the Ten Commandments"

Leviticus 18:5 stresses the importance of keeping God’s Law during the Mosaic era as the basis for living. Its truths also appear in Ezekiel 20:11, 13, and 21. Paul even alludes to Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12. The verse reads: “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord.”

Not all agree on the meaning of Leviticus 18:5. Sometimes this verse is used to support the idea that eternal life is based on Law-keeping. But there is a more accurate understanding What Leviticus 18:5 is stating is this: As God’s covenant people, Israel is in a relationship with God. Since Israel already belonged to God, Israel (both corporately and individually) is to obey Him by keeping all His commandments. Obeying God’s commandments will result in Israel remaining in and living abundantly in the land of promise associated with the Abrahamic Covenant.

What follows is an attempt to support this position.

Israel Belongs to God

The first seventeen chapters of Leviticus focused on God’s holiness and the significance of offering and sacrifices. God’s presence among His people means His people are to be holy (see Lev. 11:44-45). Leviticus 18:1-5 then functions as a preamble to what follows concerning God’s expectations for His people, Israel. Three times God declared the foundational truth that He is Israel’s God:

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Why They Followed the Law (Part 3)

Read the series.

Many dispensationalists are mistaken about the impetus for obeying the Mosaic Law, and they’re mistaken about Paul’s main point in his letter to the Galatian churches.1 These errors compound one another and, like an investment gone mad,2 they produce great confusion among Christians.

I’ll repeat something I wrote in the first installment of this series:

In Galatians, Paul was not arguing against the Old Covenant. He was arguing against the twisted, warped version of the Old Covenant the scribes and Pharisees had been pushing for so long.

Dispensationalists have made many attempts to explain the relationship between Old Covenant saints, the law and Christian life today.3 They often labor mightily to avoid the excesses of Scofield and Chafer, while yet simultaneously upholding a strong discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants. They often focus relentlessly on Paul’s letters (particularly Galatians and Romans), and less on the Old Covenant texts or their continuity with Jesus’ ministry.

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Why They Followed the Law (Part 2)

Read the series so far.

God’s people have always followed the law because they love Him, and want to serve Him. That’s the only proper motivation for serving God. Always has been. Always will be. This isn’t a “New Covenant” distinctive, or an “Old Covenant” distinctive. It’s a “believer” distinctive. I’ll explain that in this brief survey.

It Is Moses’ View

Moses, the man himself, told the Israelites God wanted them to fear Him, and do what He said (Deut 10:12). They should love Him, and therefore serve Him with everything they have – keeping His commandments and statutes, which were given for their own good (Deut 10:13).

Why should they do that?

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Why They Followed the Law (Part 1)

Getting the Law Wrong?

The entire book of Galatians is consumed with the problem of what to do with the Old Covenant law. What does “following the law” have to do with personal salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ?

A large party of Jewish Christians, most of them likely from Jerusalem and former Pharisees, believed you had to follow the Old Covenant law and repent and believe in Christ (Acts 15:1-5). Luke, in a very understated fashion, observes “Paul and Barnabas had no small discussion and debate with them.” The Apostle has little time for this kind of terrible error. He calls this teaching “a different Gospel,” (Gal 1:6). He speaks of the Galatians “deserting Him who called you,” (Gal 1:5). He said this is a perversion of the Gospel of Christ (Gal 1:7).

Did these Pharisees actually understand the message of the Old Covenant scriptures? Why did God’s people follow the law, anyway?

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