The Law is Not Completely Fulfilled: A Brief Exegesis of Matthew 5:17-18

The Law is Not Completely Fulfilled: A Brief Exegesis of Matthew 5:17-18

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (KJV).

The Greek word translated as destroy in these verses is kataluo, and it means to dissolve, disunite, or to loosen something that has been joined together. By the time Christ came, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders had loosened the Law’s requirements (see Matthew chapter 23 as an example). Widows and orphans were mistreated; reverence for God had been loosened by them. Christ’s words oppose such lax obedience. Instead of catering to them, Christ proclaimed that He came to fill the law’s meaning to the full or tighten its requirements.

Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 5 and indeed His entire life are a fulfillment of Isaiah 42:21: “The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable” (KJV).

In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus gave an entire chapter about how He magnifies the Law or tightens its requirements. For instance, Christ magnified “Do not commit adultery” by revealing to us that we should not even lust in our heart or mind. Thus, the inward component is ADDED to the outward requirement. One of the Ten Commandments is that we should not steal. In Christ, this is magnified so that we should also labor and give to others (Eph. 4:28). We also learn in the New Testament that Christ is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28). This means Christ is not disassociated or loosened from it, but eternally tied to it.

But there are people who have used Matthew 5:17-18 to propose that the entire law of God is fulfilled. However, these claims are inconsistent with other verses.

For instance, when speaking about Passover, Jesus said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will no longer by any means eat of it until it is fulfilled in God’s Kingdom?” (Luke 22:15-16). From these precious words, we learn that Passover is not completely fulfilled until the Kingdom of God comes. Elements of Passover have certainly been fulfilled, but not the entire celebration.

There has never been a king on earth that fulfilled every word of Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Christ is coming to rule the earth for 1,000 years. At that time, He will fulfill those verses with righteousness and justice.The Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day are also unfulfilled.

Ultimately, my point is that the law of God is not completely fulfilled. Christ came to fulfill it, but we forget that Christ’s coming happens in two stages. The first was His coming to earth to die as the sacrifice for our sins; the second was to come as the conquering King. In each return, elements will be fulfilled.

There are also those who claim that Christ fulfilled the law by obeying it. By extension, they also claim that Christians do not have to follow any of it. First of all, such arguments are not Scriptural based upon the previous verses viewed. The Law is not completely fulfilled. Secondly, most people with this viewpoint usually do not consistently apply it.

If the assertion that Christ’s obedience to the Law of God fulfills it and voids Christian expectation to obey any part of it, then the following items are now acceptable: murder, sexual immorality, theft, idolatry, etc. It also means tithing is void (but somehow they find a way to keep that one). This interpretation leads to the law being loosened, which is contrary to Christ’s words in Matthew. The logic of this viewpoint cannot be consistently applied to the New Testament, since Christ and the early Apostles held the standard of God’s commandments in the early church (see I Cor. 6:9-10, Eph. 6:2, Rev 21:8 for some examples).

As we think about Matthew 5:17-20, let us consider how God’s commandments have a fuller, more meaningful application in Christ (not a loosened meaning).

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

The Pre-Existence of the Sabbath

Pre Existence of the Sabbath
The Pre-Existence of the Sabbath

By Maurice Caines

For whom is the Sabbath designed? What is the nature of the Sabbath? Is it enforced on this planet only, or does its influence have cosmic implications? Why does the Sabbath matter? What does the seventh-day Sabbath have to do with our relationship with God and others?

Whatever your views on the Sabbath, this little book will intrigue and inspire you and make you think in new ways about the day God set apart and sanctified. In Pre-existence of the Sabbath, Maurice Caines presents new perspectives from God about heaven, the Sabbath, and your place in His universe that he found while studying the Word of God. Looking at the nature of the Sabbath through Caines’ eyes might just change the way you view God’s gift of His holy day.

To this short, but informative book, click the link below!

https://biblesabbath.org/shopping/pgm-more_information.php?id=120&=SID

Paul Preaches on the Sabbath

Paul Preaches on the Sabbath

Acts 13:42-44: “42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. 44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.

Acts 16:13: “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.” This is a great verse that confirms that the apostles kept the 7th Day Sabbath according to the Commandment and not the first day of the week. Paul goes out of the city to a quiet place by the riverside to pray on the Sabbath Day. He also meets some women there, who also retreated to this quiet place for the Sabbath.

Acts 18:4: “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.” As we can see, Paul is not just going into the synagogue to reason with the Jews, he is also preaching to the Greeks (Gentiles) on the Sabbath Day!

Acts 25:7-8, Acts 28:17-18, 23-24

“7 When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, 8 while he answered for himself, ‘Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.’” “28:17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: ‘Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. 19 But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.’ 23 So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.”

(this article is from the July-August 2012 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

This article was taken from page 17 of this edition. To read more articles from this edition, click this link: http://biblesabbath.org/media/TSSJulyAug2012.pdf

 

 

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

By Logan Moorer

In the Declaration of Independence, our founders wrote that God had given mankind unalienable rights, including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. One must keep in mind that any one of these three items are not exclusive from each other. Said another way, one’s pursuit of happiness should not hinder the liberty or life of another.

Unfortunately, the direction of the nation has taken a drastic turn for the worst. Some seem to think that their ‘pursuit of happiness’ means the liberty to take the life of another.  Recently, the state of New York has just passed a that will allow for the termination of any fetus, even up to the point of birth.

I watched an entire room of people not just vote to pass this bill, but applaud their self-proclaimed “progressive” agenda. Our country is at the point, and has been for quite some time, where we have the audacity to praise immortality and savagery. These types of behaviors remind us of Jesus words “Because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). This perversion of the phrase ‘pursuit of happiness’ has brought us to this place. The phrase is pleasant but taken out of context has led to terrible behavior.

Human happiness is a conditional emotion determined by our circumstance. While it is not evil in and of itself, it does have the potential to lead us straight to death. Therefore the other two inalienable rights, “Life and Liberty” are necessary. Now that those are being jettisoned for the illusion of human happiness, evil is being revealed.

The Apostle John worded it this way: “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17). When we choose to chase after something that’s fleeting, like the sinful desires of our flesh, to attain happiness, we fail to realize that such feelings are temporary.  What then are we to pursue if not human happiness?

Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ‘Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble’” (Matthew 6:33-34). The pursuit of human happiness in and of itself without restraint leads to a path of ease.

If you choose the path of least resistance then you are sure to face fewer trials, but fewer trials means less growth. Isn’t growth the point of life though? Especially for those of us who have committed our lives to the path of righteousness! “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). That joy James speaks of is an entirely different subject!

Joy is not conditional like happiness because joy is not an emotion. It is a mindset that is focused on not self, but something beyond ourselves – the will and plan of God and his purpose for our lives. While human happiness without restraint leads us away from the storms of life, the joy of the Lord leads us through them. The joy of the Lord has the power to lead us through the storm because it is the mindset of thankfulness. After all the verb form of the word joy is to rejoice!

Paul wrote, “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.’ And again it is said, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.’ And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.’ And again Isaiah says, ‘The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:8-13). That is the message of our faith!

The fleeting and fickle happiness of our flesh will never stand against the trials of this life, but the joy and hope given to us by the sacrifice and promise of our Lord Yeshua will last for the eternity that he promised. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6:46-49). As children of God and brethren to one another, let’s build the house of the Lord, not our own! Let us walk in Godly joy and not the unrestrained passions of the flesh. Let us strive for joy and not be content with human happiness.

Logan Moorer  was born and raised in Montgomery Alabama. He attended Little Flock Ministries, a private Christian school, and graduated in June of 2014. He has been a member of  Living God Ministries since 1999. https://thelivinggodministry.org/

A Thousand Shall Fall

A Thousand Shall Fall

This inspiring book recalls the story of a Seventh Day Adventist leader who was drafted in the German army during World War II. He refused to break the Sabbath and suffered because of it. His wife refused to give their children exams on the Sabbath and they resisted all pressure to join the Nazi party. He warned Jewish people to flee as the German army advanced. This book is not a Scriptural examination of the seventh-day Sabbath; it is a story of faith put into practice. Against all odds, he honored God’s Holy Day and survived the war.

To learn about this inspiring story, click the link below:

https://biblesabbath.org/shopping/pgm-more_information.php?id=22&=SID

Sabbath Meditation #6 – Timing is Everything

Sabbath Meditation #6 – Timing is Everything

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

“And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:41).

“My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me” (Psalm 31:15).

“See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days…” (Exodus 16:29a).

“…the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation” (Lev. 23:2-3)

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Timing is everything?” Just imagine how things would be different in your life if certain events had not occurred at just the right time. For an example: What if our perceived delays prevented us from being in an accident? The point is this: Timing plays a huge part in our lives.

God is all about timing. He is never late. He is always on time to fulfill His promises, even if we question His timing. For instance, God brought the Israelites out of Egypt 430 years to the very day that they went into that land. They did not leave a day before or a day after. God had designed that they leave in His timing.

After the Israelites left Egypt, the theme of time continued. God sent one portion of manna on the first five days of the week, twice as much on the sixth day, and none on the seventh day. The goal was to teach them which day was the Sabbath. “See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days…” (Exodus 16:29a). After leaving Egypt, God brought them into His weekly sacred rhythm.

When God told the Israelites to take the Promised Land, they refused due to unbelief (Numbers 13). As a result, God forbid them from entering into the Promised Land (Numbers 14:1-38). They defied God and still tried to take the Promised Land, but failed (Numbers 14:39-45).

In the same way, humans want to work and rest whenever we choose. This can’t be a good idea if God has already ordained that we work certain days and rest on one specific day. If the Israelites had tried to leave Egypt sooner or later than God’s intentional timing, they would have not succeeded.

During the week, we can feel overwhelmed with everything that can be or needs to be done. Moreover, there are certain events in our culture that might often occur on Sabbath (such as sporting events). The enemy, satan, wants you to think that because you abstain from these activities to honor the Sabbath that you are missing out on something. In these moments, we must trust in God’s timing, which is perfect. If God’s timing was so precise and perfect in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, then why would this not also apply to the Sabbath? You cannot miss out on anything that God has for your life when you follow His timing.

His timing leads us towards the fulfillment of His plans and purposes. He knows best. David wrote, “My times are in thy hand…” (Psalm 31:15). Recall from Sabbath Meditation #1 that God did not give mankind dominion over time. That is left to God’s sovereignty. What is left in His hands cannot be taken away (John 10:29).

The Israelites cried out and wanted to leave Egypt as soon as possible, but God ordained it happen on a specific day. Similarly, God has planned the Sabbath on the seventh day, not a day of our choosing. He has established the pattern for our times.

If we find ourselves outside of His weekly rhythm by failing to observe Sabbath, we will miss out on something He wants us to have. In previous Sabbath Meditations, we have reviewed the spiritual strength and Joy we receive when we honor the seventh day of the week (see Sabbath Meditation 4[link] and  Meditation 5[link]).

In Leviticus 23:2-3, God said that the Sabbath was one of HIS feasts. The Hebrew word translated as ‘feasts’ is moed, and it means an appointed or set time.  For the natural mind, any time seems convenient. In John 7:6, Jesus said, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.” For man, any time works – any time to work and any time to rest. God already has an appointment for you and I on the Sabbath – He will not fail to come through on this set time. Why would we want to miss it?

God is very intentional and He designed the seven-day week according to His purpose for our lives and our best interest. His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). When we simply follow His timing, the possibilities are endless.

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr

BSA President

www.biblesabbath.org

Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 4 of 4)

Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 4 of 4)

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

The last factor that influenced the Sabbath was the relationship between Roman Emperors and Roman Bishops. Beginning with the time of Constantine, the Roman Church became intertwined with the Roman Empire. Constantine de facto made the Roman Church an institution of the state. In return for the support, Roman Emperors starting with Constantine codified Roman Church practices as law.

In 321 AD, Constantine ruled that people could leave property to the Roman Church upon death (CT: 16.2.4). In 326 AD, he passed a law that granted the Roman Church special privileges. All other Christian groups were not allowed these privileges and were bound to public service (CT: 16.5.1). He regulated the number of clergy in Christianity (CT: 16.2.6 [326 AD]). Secular judges were even required to enforce the decisions of Christian Bishops (CS: 1 [333 AD]).

In 379, Theodosius became the Eastern Roman Emperor. After hearing the perspectives of different Christian groups, he sided with the Roman Church. All houses of prayer run were given over to the Roman Church. The next year he passed a law, which forced all peoples under his rule to follow the Roman Catholic religion. We have an excerpt from this decree below:

“To the residents of Constantinople: It is our will that all the peoples whom the government of our clemency rules shall follow that religion which a pious belief from Peter to the present declares the holy Peter delivered to the Romans, and which it is evident the Pontiff Damascus and Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic sanctity, follow; that is, that according to the apostolic discipline and evangelical doctrine we believe in the deity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit of equal majesty in a holy trinity. Those who follow this law we command shall be comprised under the name of Catholic Christians; but others, indeed, we require, as insane and raving, to bear the infamy of heretical teaching; their gatherings shall not receive the name of churches; they are to be smitten first with the divine punishment and after that by the vengeance of our indignation, which has divine approval” (CT: 16.1.2).

His laws relating to religion were sometimes fanatical. People were not allowed to discuss religious matters in public (CT: 16.4.1 [388 AD]). Non-Roman Catholic groups were forbidden from owning churches or meeting together to have services.

The Imperial relationship with the Roman Church would pave the way for celebrations of the Roman Church, including Sunday, to be enshrined as enforced law. The first Sunday law in history with any mention of the Lord was issued in 386 AD by Theodosius (CT: 2.8.18). From 386 to 469, there were seven laws enacted that specifically regulated some aspect of Sunday rest or worship.

Other Roman celebrations were promoted, such as January New Years, Emperor’s birthdays, and even Christmas (for Christmas, see: CT 15.5.5 [425 AD]). Sunday became cemented as the day of rest in the Roman Empire. This would last for centuries to come and even transfer to other European monarchies that used Roman law (such as the Frankish people under Charlemagne).

In conclusion, the Sabbath was attacked and slandered for centuries through these seven factors: 1) Persecution of Christians, 2) Destruction of Jerusalem (twice), 3) Quartodeciman Controversy, 4) Anti-Semitism, 5) Syncretism, 6) Allegorizing Scripture, 7) The relationship between the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church.

As you ponder these details, consider that some of these same factors are used in arguments today to denigrate the seventh-day Sabbath. But now you know their origin. We will give some examples.

Example #1 – The Quartodeciman Controversy still affects the Sabbath. People often use the argument that the resurrection changed occurred on Sunday morning to justify changing the Sabbath to Sunday. This argument was never used by the first Apostles. It wasn’t used by anyone until over 100 years after Christ was on earth.

Example #2 – Anti-Semitism influences people’s view of the Sabbath. When you mention the seventh-day Sabbath, many will say “That’s just for the Jews”; “You mean the Jewish Sabbath?”; or “We do not live like Jewish people”. Yet not a single time in the Bible is the Sabbath ever called Jewish; it is called the Sabbath of the Lord our God (see Exodus 20:8-11 as an example). People who use these arguments may not be anti-Semites; but they are using an anti-Semite argument.

Example #3 – Allegorizing the Scriptures. Some today still allegorize when discussing the Sabbath. For instance, some people say “Jesus is my Sabbath” or “Rest is not a day, it is salvation in Christ” – yet none of these arguments are found in the Bible.

Consider this!

Despite these seven factors, most Christians still honored the Sabbath into the 400s AD. This completely negates the argument that the Sabbath was changed by the early Church!

We will look at one writer who lived in the late 300s/early 400s AD. His name is Socrates Scholasticus; He wrote a tremendous work on Christian history.

“For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this. The Egyptians in the neighborhood of Alexandria, and the inhabitants of Thebais, hold their religious assemblies on the Sabbath, but do not participate of the mysteries in the manner usual among Christians in general: for after having eaten and satisfied themselves with food of all kinds, in the evening making their offerings…” (ibid, bk 5, ch 22)

Pay close attention to the words of this historian. He recorded that Rome and Alexandria were the two cities that ceased to honor the Sabbath; this means at one time they did honor the Sabbath. He also noted that they did not stop honoring the Sabbath because of any scripture, but because of a tradition. Jesus warned us about the traditions of man that contradict the commandments of God (Matthew 15:1-20).

Despite these seven factors, most Christians continued to honor the Sabbath.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups

directory-11

Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups

by the BSA

Now in its 11th edition, the directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups is available to order!

This directory lists hundreds of Sabbath Keeping churches all over North America. There are seven categories of churches in this directory:

  • Seventh-Day Baptists
  • Seventh-Day Adventists
  • Church of God (Seventh Day)
  • World Wide Church of God Successor Movements
  • The Sacred Names Movement
  • The Messianic Movement
  • Non-Aligned Groups (Independent)

There is a section briefly explaining each one of these groups.

This is a must have document, especially if you will be traveling out of town!

To order, click the link below:

https://biblesabbath.org/shopping/pgm-more_information.php?id=115&=SID

 

Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 3 of 4)

Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 3 of 4)

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In the midst of the previous four factors, a fifth significant factor developed: syncretism. Syncretism occurs when someone takes practices from the Holy Bible and mixes them with practices from other religions.

As some early Christians sought to avoid practices that appeared Jewish, they embraced practices from other religions. Sunday worship was one of them. Another writer of this period was Clement of Alexandria (180s AD). In his writings, we find the first legitimate reference to Sunday being called the Lord’s Day. His justification for this view comes from Plato and the number eight (Stromata, 5, 14). Plato was a heathen philosopher. Why would anyone use his writings to justify any Christian practice?

As the Old Testament was being devalued as the background source to the New Testament, these Gnostic writers found other sources that they could use as a derivative of Christian practice. Philosophy was one belief system syncretized with the New Testament to fill this void.

The theology of Clement was sometimes confusing and not always consistent. He called Sunday the “Lord’s Day”, which has no scriptural evidence. He was an avowed gnostic and claimed that the true gnostic does not honor specific days (ibid, 6:15, 7:7). Among his other questionable statements, he proposed that philosophy was given to the Greeks to guide them towards righteousness (ibid, 1:5). He believed that we should pray with our faces towards the east to face the rising sun (ibid, 7:7). Lastly, he believed that the sun was created as an object of worship. “And he gave the sun, and the moon, and the stars to be worshipped…” (ibid, 6:14).

The second writer we will discuss as it relates to syncretism is Tertullian. He was a writer who lived in Carthage in the late 190s/early 200s AD. He was an avowed enemy of Marcionites, but he still advocated Sunday worship.  We have some of his quotes below.

“Others with a greater show of reason take us for worshippers of the sun… This suspicion took its rise from hence, because it was observed that Christians prayed with their faces towards the east [towards the sun] but if we, like them[the pagans], celebrate Sunday as a festival and day of rejoicing, it is for a reason vastly distant from that of worshipping the sun; for we solemnize the day after Saturday in contradistinction to those who call this day their Sabbath, and devote it to ease and eating, deviating from the old Jewish customs, which they are now very ignorant of” (Apology, Chapter 16; emphasis mine throughout).

Tertullian admitted that the Sunday celebration was conducted “like them” – meaning like the pagans. He also acknowledged that there were Christians that still called Saturday the Sabbath.

“Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray towards the east or because we make Sunday a day of festivity. What then? Do you do less than this?…It is you [the pagans], at all events, who have even admitted the sun into the calendar of the week; and you have selected its day, in preference to the preceding day…For the Jewish feasts are the Sabbath and “the Purification”…all which institutions and practices are of course foreign from your [pagan] gods” (Against the Nations, 1:13).

In his work, Against the Nations (also called To the Nations), Tertullian addressed pagan worshippers. Once again, he admitted that some Christians made Sunday a festivity in the same way as the pagans. He then confessed that the practices of the Sabbath and festivals by the Jewish people are foreign to other gods. They are holy celebrations not shared by other religions. He had to defend the syncretism he practiced.

Tertullian was the first person (to my knowledge) who defended Christianity against accusations of sun worship. In the New Testament, Christians never had to shield themselves against such allegations. Syncretism caused this to change –the outside world was confused by the Sunday festivity. Tertullian also confessed that Sunday worship was a tradition with no Scriptural authority. This is consistent with the Catholic writers we quoted in the introduction.

“We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s day to be unlawful…. If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them” (De Corona, chapters 3 and 4).

As we read these primary source accounts, syncretism had a huge influence on the Sabbath in early Christianity. Some wanted to retain pagan practices, such as adoration of the sun and its rising, but still hold Christian principles. We are instructed in the Bible not to pray to the sun or adore its rising (see Deut. 4:19, Ezekiel 8:14-17). Also, the phrase “Lord’s Day” became gradually attached to the first day of the week.

The next factor that influenced the Sabbath was the allegorizing of Scripture. You may not be familiar with this concept, but allegorizing is a unique method of interpreting the Bible. It does not fully consider the literal meaning of verses. Instead, numbers and details in the Bible are treated as symbols. They are then reapplied in a way that is subjective to the interpreter. As a result, those using this method usually come to conclusions that negate the literal meaning of the Bible.

Among the first writers to allegorize the Bible was Justin the Martyr. He especially used allegory as it related to the Sabbath and the resurrection. We have two excerpts below:

“For righteous Noah, along with the other mortals at the deluge, i.e., with his own wife, his three sons and their wives, being eight in number, were a symbol of the eighth day, wherein Christ appeared when He rose from the dead, forever the first in power” (Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 138).

“The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances: if there is any perjured person or a thief among you, let him cease to be so; if any adulterer, let him repent; then he has kept the sweet and true Sabbaths of God…” (ibid, chapter 12).

In the first quote, he allegorized the number eight from the story of Noah and used this number as a reason to transfer the Sabbath to the first day of the week (which he calls the eighth day of the week). In another chapter of the same work, he does the same thing with circumcision (see chapter 41).

His allegorical attack on the Sabbath has obvious problems with the literal meaning of the Scriptures. First, God never described the week as having eight days. Secondly, Jesus did not resurrect on Sunday. Third, no Bible writer ever connected circumcision or Noah to the Sabbath.

In the second quote above, Justin portrayed a sinless life as the true way to honor the Sabbath. Again, this is a problematic interpretation. The Sabbath is the weekly day of rest – keeping other commandments cannot replace its absolute requirements. If someone abstains from stealing, then they have done well and honored that specific commandment. However, if the same person works on Sabbath then he/she has violated the fourth commandment. If we use Justin’s logic, we could justify breaking any commandment we want.

Two other authors that contributed greatly to allegorizing the Scriptures were Clement of Alexandria and his pupil Origen. Clement studied at the Alexandrian school of theology, which taught this method of interpretation. In other places, he and Origen decried honoring any specific day as special.

“Whence not in a specified place, or selected temple, or at certain festivals and on appointed days, but during his whole life, the Gnostic in every place, even if he be alone by himself, and wherever he has any of those who have exercised the like faith, honours God, that is, acknowledges his gratitude for the knowledge of the way to live” (Clement, Stromata, 7, 7).

“If it be objected to us on this subject that we ourselves are accustomed to observe certain days, as for example the Lord’s day, the Preparation, the Passover, or Pentecost, I have to answer, that to the perfect Christian, who is ever in his thoughts, words, and deeds serving his natural Lord, God the Word, all his days are the Lord’s, and he is always keeping the Lord’s day. He also who is unceasingly preparing himself for the true life, and abstaining from the pleasures of this life which lead astray so many — who is not indulging the lust of the flesh, but keeping under his body, and bringing it into subjection,— such a one is always keeping Preparation-day” (Origen, Against Celsus, 8:22)

Origen allegorized away any day with special significance and ranked them all the same. He thus contradicted the example of Christ and the early Apostles, who clearly made distinctions between days that were holy and those that were not.

Allegorizing Scriptures would contribute to misunderstanding the Sabbath for centuries to come. A substantial number of Christians were influenced by the Alexandrian school of Theology. This form of interpreting the Scriptures has existed in some form down to the present.

We will finish this series next week!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

BSA Evangelism Tracts

BSA Pamphlets

BSA Evangelism Tracts

By the Bible Sabbath Association

The BSA has a variety of short, easy to understand pamphlets available. These can help educate new believers, but also evangelize others. We give discounts for bulk orders. We have a brief list below:

  • Roman Catholic and Protestant Confessions about Sunday – This pamphlet is a series of quotes by Roman Catholic and Protestant ministers confessing that the true Sabbath is Friday sunset to Saturday sunset
  • Whatever Happened to the Sabbath? – This small pamphlet gives a brief overview of the Sabbath. It cites scripture and insightful questions to cause others to consider the importance of the Sabbath.
  • Why Do You Observe Sunday? – This pamphlet is an overview explaining that Sunday is just a common day; it then transitions to show the Apostle’s example of keeping the Sabbath.
  • Other small tracts available:
  • Why the Seventh-Day Sabbath?
  • Why the Protestant Reformation Failed!
  • 100 Facts on the Sabbath Question
  • What Would Jesus Do on the Weekend

To overview these tracts, click the link below!

http://biblesabbath.org/index.php?pr=Leaflets_and_Tracts