Is the Sabbath abolished?

“Jesus claimed that “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:28); he could therefore abolish the sabbath, and he did in fact do so, for the New Covenant which he brought abrogated the Old Covenant, of which the sabbath was the sign. The Christian Sunday is not in any sense a continuation of the Jewish sabbath. The latter closed the week, but the Christian Sunday opens the week in the new era by commemorating the Resurrection of our Lord, and the appearances of the risen Christ, and by directing our attention to the future, when he will come again. And yet Sunday does symbolize the fulfillment of those promises which the sabbath foreshadowed. Like all the other promises of the Old Testament, these promises too are realized not in an institution, but in the person of Christ: it is he who fulfills the entire Law. Sunday is the “Lord’s Day,” the day of him who lightens our burdens (Mt. 11:28), through whom, with whom and in whom we enter into God’s own rest (Heb. 4:1-11)” [R. de. Vaux, “Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions,” trans. by J. McHugh, 2 vols.(New York: McGraw Hill, 1961), 2:483].

5 responses to this post.

  1. So what you’re telling me is that the one commandment of the Ten Commandments that has its origin explicitly in the PRE-Mosaic period (the Sabbath command is by NO MEANS limited to OT Israel: Genesis 2:1-3 proves that the Sabbath is for all humanity) no longer applies today? The whole point of the Sabbath was one day in seven as a day of rest. Jesus says that He did NOT come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. You should read Joey Pipa’s book on the subject. Your position has Jesus extracting one and only one of the Ten Commandments and abolishing it. See the Sermon on the Mount for Jesus’ position on the law.

  2. Lane,

    Your question implies that I rolled out of bed this morning and invented this view. Actually all I did was post a forty-plus year old quote from a well-respected expert on Jewish customs and archaeology. I think your comment conflates a few different issues.

    1. You start with the unproven assumption that Ex. 20:9-10 is describing the exact same thing as Gen. 2:2-3. I would find rare agreement with von Rad but he makes a healthy observation that “the divine rest is not . . . made normative for the rhythm of human life . . . nothing is said here [i.e., Gen. 2] of the Sabbath law, and Israel learns of it only at Mount Sinai.” In Genesis 2 there is no religious feast day, institution or direct commandment given that the seventh day should be kept in any way. Therefore I would surmise that Genesis 2 does not teach a “creation ordinance” for all humanity. However, the institution of the Sabbath for the people of Israel did find its structure in the creation account. By the way the word Sabbath does not even appear in Genesis 2:2-3. The first occurrence is not until Exod. 16:22-30 where it is introduced but not instituted (just before the Sinai event).

    2. You seem shocked that the quote implies that the Sabbath no longer applies today. Who is more consistent? The one who sees the fulfillment of the law in Christ and thus places himself under this “law of love” or the one who divides the law into three unwarranted divisions, stripping it of its demands and holding on to some strange configuration called “moral law” as the only leftover element worth believing? Tell me, would you consider the civil penalties (i.e. death in Exod. 31:14) associated with the Sabbath to be non-moral (immoral?)?

    3. You state that “The whole point of the Sabbath was one day in seven as a day of rest.” Really? That was the “whole” point? Hebrews 4 points to a better solution which is faith in the superior Messiah delivers us into true spiritual rest (in the already here and now and in the not yet future state).

    4.In regards to Matt. 5:17 you wrongly assert, “Your position has Jesus extracting one and only one of the Ten Commandments and abolishing it.” Actually I have not defined my “position” here so you are merely assuming at this point. Nevertheless, I would argue that Jesus does not extract one commandment and abolish it; to the contrary I would say he fulfills the whole law (both its requirements and penalties, cf. Heb. 10:9). As a result of the finished work of Christ, I am no longer subject to the law as a system of theocratic and covenant obligations. If you do believe you are subject to the Old Covenant law then you have no right to pick and choose which parts you’ll ascribe to nor do you have the privilege of stripping away its penalties. I am a New Covenant believer not a mixture of two. Therefore with Paul I would celebrate the fact that sin no longer has mastery “for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). Why is it when I see the whole law fulfilled in Christ I’m accused of making Christ “abolish the law” yet you hold onto the law in piecemeal and that’s not inconsistent? What happened to the parts you no longer view in force? I suspect you might say they were “fulfilled.” My position is no different just more full.

    5.I would agree with Doug Moo who has written that the “law that God had first communicated to his people in written form will now be internalized, undergoing transformation and perhaps modification in the process.” It is this that James called “the perfect law of liberty” (1:25); “the royal law” (2:8); and the “law of liberty” (2:12).

  3. Lane wrote: “Genesis 2:1-3 proves that the Sabbath is for all humanity”

    I would just add that it doesn’t. In fact, you can’t find anyone rebuked for not keeping the Sabbath prior to the Mosaic Covenant.

    Also Lane wrote: “Your position has Jesus extracting one and only one of the Ten Commandments and abolishing it.”

    I don’t want to speak for Paul, but Scripture says the whole of the Mosaic Covenant is “obsolete” (Heb 8:13), so Jesus didn’t just single that one out. The Law’s purpose was to lead to faith in Christ, but now accomplished the Law is unnecessary (Gal 3:21-26).

  4. Besides, if we are going to keep one point of the law, we are then bound to keep the whole law.

    Galatians 3:10–For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”

    Galatians 5:4–Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

    Galatians 2:16–Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

    Romans 10:4–For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

    Colossians 2:16–Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days…

    This is just a handful of verses that say the same thing: that if we are going to try and be righteous by keeping ONE part of the law, we must keep the WHOLE law–moral, ceremonial, dietary, circumcision, etc.

  5. […] at ET with a few comments and quotes (See Is the Sabbath for everyone?, Is Sunday the Sabbath?, Is the Sabbath abolished?, Remember the Sabbath?). To date, the best book I’ve read on this is the classic From Sabbath […]

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