A Study of the Sabbath and the Old Law

Should Christians observe the Sabbath? Some believe the 10 Commandments were given for all time, to all people, and that we should still observe them.

A Study of the Sabbath and the Old Law

By Dale Manor

Most people recognize that we are no longer obligated to observe certain aspects of the Old Testament (OT) such as animal sacrifices, burning incense in worship, etc. However, the 10 Commandments are often viewed differently. Some make a distinction between an eternal "moral law" consisting of the 10 Commandments, and a "ceremonial law" regulating sacrifices, etc. There is no evidence in Scripture to substantiate this distinction.

The entire Law of Moses, with the 10 commandments, was nullified at the cross of Jesus. Some of those commandments were re-established as part of the Gospel of Christ, but the Sabbath was not. For those who struggle with this premise, perhaps an example will help. The first document of governing rules for the United States was known as the Articles of Confederation. After a few years, it became clear that these articles did not meet the needs of the early colonists. They decided to replace the earlier articles with the Constitution of the United States of America. Once the Constitution was ratified, none of the laws of the Article of Confederation were binding. Some of the laws and principles of the earlier document became a part of the Constitution and it appeared they continued, but in reality they were terminated and re-established. Such is the case with some of the laws of the OT in their relationship to the New Testament (NT).

The following list shows the re-establishment of nine of the Ten Commandments (these are not all of the NT passages concerning these matters):

1-2. The first two commands, no other gods (Ex 20:3) and no graven images/idols (Ex 20:4-6), are closely related since idols usually represented other deities. God was also prohibiting substitute efforts to represent Him. While the NT contains no explicit affirmation of these laws, several passages speak in principle of the prohibition. (See Mt 4:10; Rom 1:22-25; and Acts 17:24-29).

3. Not taking the Lord's name in vain (Ex 20:7). God did not intend to prevent anyone from pronouncing His name; but to curtail a flippant and casual use of His name. Again the NT does not explicitly make this a prohibition, but Jesus emphasizes that we will be condemned by our words (Mt 12:34-37), which would include taking the Lord's name in vain.

4. Remember the Sabbath (Ex 20:8-11). No reaffirmation appears in the NT. See discussions further in this lesson.

5. Honor father and mother (Ex 20:12). See Eph 6:1-2.

6. Do not kill (commit murder) (Ex 20:13). See Mt 19:18 and Rom 13:9.

7. Do not commit adultery (Ex 20:14). See Mt 19:18; Rom 13:9.

8. Do not steal (Ex 20:15) See Mt 19:18; Rom 13:9.

9. Do not bear false witness (Ex 20:16). See Mt 19:18; Eph 4:25-31.

10. Do not covet (Ex 20:16). See Rom 13:9; Col 3:5.

While the OT Law appears in a format as a codified listing, the NT generally does not list its commands that way. Certainly the NT includes commands to be obeyed, but they usually appear in narratives and discussions so as to clarify the intent and context of their application.

The point of concern for some people is the Sabbath Law — what happened to it? This question will be the focus of the following discussion.

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