The Bible is God’s Word? What saith these Scriptures concerning the Christian Sabbath? Nothing. Concerning Israel’s Sabbath the Scripture speaks: Israel failed under the law. God abolished the Old Covenant.
It is because of this that the Son of God said to this same people: “My Father worketh hitherto and I work.” John 5:17. It is because of His bleeding work in Gethsemane and on Calvary when He drank the cup and cried, “it is finished,” that He can still say with authority, “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” The Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath day. Sabbath means rest. The only rest any sinner can find is Christ: “For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His.” Hebrews 4:10. God in creation rested in a perfect work of creation. The Lord Jesus Christ after he had died and abolished death sat down at the right hand of God. Israel found no rest under the law; only condemnation and wrath. It was their school-master to bring them to Christ that they might be justified by faith Galatians 3:24. The schoolmaster was not the ceremonial law alone but the moral law. The next verse states that the believer is no longer under a schoolmaster; which plainly confirms the declaration of God in another verse: “For ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14.
On the Sabbath Israel was to cease from works. But before the Sabbath was ever given to Israel, Abraham entered into God’s rest by faith which was reckoned to him for righteousness. When does the New Testament saint cease from His works? Not on the Sabbath day either the first or the seventh; but the moment he enters by faith into Christ and receives rest and eternal life. He then and there receives not a portion of land and earthly prosperity in Canaan, but heavenly citizenship in the Body of Christ. He does not worship in Jerusalem, but is blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies, and is raised up to sit together in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus. The first day of the week is not the Christian Sabbath. Nor has the Christian anything to do with the seventh day Sabbath except to ignore it; for the Saviour by whom the believer is crucified to the law and also dead to the law, was dead on the Sabbath day and arose on the first day of the week to begin a New Covenant. “Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” Hebrews 8:13. Christ is the believer’s only Sabbath. We do not rest on a day, but in a Person.
God said to His earthly people, that which He has never said to His heavenly people: “It is a sign between me and you throughout your generations.” Exodus 31:13. “The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel.” Exodus 31:17.
The Sabbath was not a sign between God and Abraham; for he had no Sabbath day. It is not a sign between God and the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is not Israel any more than Jerusalem is heaven. Those who claim to be Christians and Israel should carefully read Romans 11:25: “A blindness in part is happened to Israel.”
There could not be a universal Sabbath, with morning in one part of the earth while it is evening in another.
Israel had a Sabbath, but no rest. The New Testament saint has rest, but no Sabbath. The Sabbath-keepers nailed Jesus to the cross. They had murder in their hearts several times because this great Benefactor wanted to heal one of God’s suffering creatures on the Sabbath day. How can a loving God rest when the whole creation is travailing in pain. Sabbath-keepers are austere, critical and never filled with the Spirit. They prefer to be Levites with the stones to kill the offender for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. But this is true legalism. Levites, stones and death go with the Sabbath. You cannot have one without the other.
The Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, mentions in his epistle several of the commandments, but he never instructed a Gentile believer to observe the seventh day. His statement concerning the matter is this:
“One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day to the Lord, he doth not regard it.” Romans 14:6 and 7. Read also Colossians 2:16. Let no man judge concerning Israel’s days.
ISRAEL’S SABBATH BELONGED TO THE LAW DISPENSATION WHICH WAS A TEMPORARY COVENANT
“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made.” Galatians 3:19.
“What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son, . . .” Romans 8:3. Christ is the Seed.
I once attended a Seventh Day Adventist convention where there was a large gathering of these deceived people. There was a genuine religious atmosphere, much resembling the camp of Israel with its Judaism rather than the spiritual blessings which attend a gathering of members of the Church of Christ.
I found myself suddenly plunged in to an argument with two of their amateur preachers and presently surrounded by a crowd of their followers. When the crowd perceived that their two champions were being routed by the bombardment of God’s Word, one of their number hastened to the auditorium for their Goliath, and with him came another crowd.
In this human circle the debate continued and the big chief seemed overjoyed at the opportunity of exposing the stupidity of one who would dare challenge the scriptural validity of his religion. With little difficulty he willingly and readily answered from the Bible a number of question which I put to him very rapidly. Then said I, “you seem to know your Bible quite well: will you please explain to this audience Galatians 3:19?” “Certainly,” said he, “just as soon as I read it.” Then he read: “Wherefore serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made.”
He was silent for some moments; not so quick to answer as before. I said, “we are waiting for the explanation.” “Well,” said he, “let’s have your explanation.” I said, “this is the first time you have asked this, and I have been leading you up to this question.” A few more silent moments and turning of the leaves. I turned to the people and said, “will any of his disciples volunteer to explain the verse in his stead?” More silence. The preacher looked me and said, “we are waiting for your explanation.” I said, “I know you do not understand that verse of Scripture, for if you did, and were honest, you would leave and denounce Seventh Day Adventism immediately.” He gave up so far as an explanation is concerned.
Much of Galatians has to do with the ceremonial law of Israel; but the verses immediately connected with Galatians 3:19 have to do with the moral law. So when God asks of the Christian. “Wherefore serveth the law.” He is referring to the law given at Sinai on the tables of stone. For it was this law that was added because of transgressions. I said to the Adventist preacher, please explain what the law was added to. But neither he nor any member of that circle knew.
I said, “if the law was added, it was unknown to man, before it was added, or in the Bible language, before it entered that the offense might abound.” “It was added till.” Till something happened. That something has happened Therefore the Law; covenant was a temporary covenant, and has served the purpose for which God intended it.
It was added to the gospel which God preached in His covenant with Abraham. It was added till Jesus Christ broke down the middle-wall of partition between Israel and the Gentile on Calvary’s cross. Ephesians 2:15.
Before the law, God preached the gospel to Abraham. Galatians 3:8. The covenant was by promise and the law did not and cannot disannul it. Galatians 3:17. The fourth chapter of Romans shows the relation of the law to the Abrahamic covenant fulfilled in the One who was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification.
We praise God for the privilege of one day in seven, the first day of the week, which we can devote wholly special worship, rest and service. But the first day of the week is not the Sabbath any more than the Body of Christ is Israel. We are sure the first day of the week was a day of special privilege and rejoicing with the apostolic church.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.