The Sabbath Threatened

Many Sabbath-keepers expect that the Sabbath will one day be threatened by civil enforcement of Sunday observance.  The Sabbath is, however, threatened by something else that is more subtle but no less able to undermine the Sabbath.  The threat comes from a popular view of salvation that makes Sabbath-keeping irrelevant.

The popular view of salvation is that it is a gift that is offered freely to all by the death of Christ and that no one has to do anything more than to accept it.  It sounds very good, but there is a problem.  The problem is highlighted if we attempt to answer a simple question: Can anyone claim this free gift and be denied it?  To this question, the Bible gives a clear answer: Yes!  Over and over, it is made clear in the Bible that simply claiming to accept Christ without obeying Him is worthless!

It would be exhausting to try to quote every verse that makes that point.  A few should suffice.  Here are a few:

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21).

“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4).

James’s Argument

Those who claim that faith in Christ is all that is required for salvation, usually quote the Apostle Paul but ignore James entirely.  They also ignore Peter’s warning that there are some things in Paul’s writings that are “hard to be understood” and that people who are “unlearned and unstable wrest” “unto their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16).

James’s argument is clear that a faith which ignores keeping the Ten Commandments is worthless.  In fact, he says we will be judged by the Ten Commandments Law, which he calls “the law of liberty” – the same law that says: “Do not commit adultery” and “Do not kill” (James 2:11, 12).  This is the same law that says we should keep the Sabbath!

James goes on to ask, quite pointedly: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” James 2:14.  He answers his own question by saying: “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20).  He says, further: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24).

Understanding Paul

 If we would follow the popular argument, we would be led to think that James contradicts Paul and that James is less authentic than Paul and so, can be ignored.  There is no need for such confusion if we understand what Paul is saying.  The secret is to understand what Paul is talking about when he refers to the Law.  Here is a sample of Paul speaking about the Law:

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” Gal. 3:13.

What “curse” is he speaking about and what “law”?  Popular theology will say that it is the “curse” of trying to be saved by law-keeping, the “law” in this instance being the moral law – the Ten Commandments.  Needless to say, this is absurd! God could never tell us not to steal or murder and then when we try to obey Him, He says that we are cursed. Nonsense!  Paul explains clearly the law to which he refers and what the curse is in verse 10 of the same chapter.  He says:

“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.” (Gal. 3:10).

The Book of the Law

 Paul is speaking about the “book of the law”!  What is that?  It is the entirety of the laws of the Mosaic system.  If you recall, the issue was circumcision.  Some people wanted new converts to keep the Mosaic Law.  Paul said, no!  He refers to Deut. 27:26 which says: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.” (Deut. 27:26).  He went on to tell the Galatians that if they insisted on being circumcised, then they are debtors to do the whole law – “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” (Gal. 5:3).

Paul gives the duration of that Mosaic Law System by telling us that “the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after” God’s covenant with Abraham, “was [past tense] our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Gal. 3:17, 24).  This fixed duration from Moses to Christ was applicable to the Mosaic system as a whole and not to the moral law specifically.  He further addresses those who wanted to be under the law by saying: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law” (Gal. 4:21).  Obviously, he was speaking to people who wanted to continue under the Mosaic system of laws.  He could never have been referring to the moral law specifically, as no one could ever possibly desire to be under the law in reference to the moral law.  To be under the moral law means to be under the condemnation of the law.  No one could ever desire that!

Having concluded that no one had kept the Mosaic Law perfectly and hence would have been under the curse, Paul points to Jesus, through whom that whole Mosaic System had been done away.  He refers to it as the middle wall of partition” (Eph. 2:14) between Jew and Gentile and as something “contrary to us” (Col. 2:14).  The context explains why Paul would describe the Mosaic Law System in that way.  Gentiles used to be accepted into Israel if they were circumcised and kept the Mosaic Law, as God’s intention was that His house was to “be called an house of prayer for all people” (Isa. 56:3-7). But these strangers and eunuchs were like second class citizens within Israel.  Under the new dispensation, which was specifically revealed to Paul – a mystery that was previously “hid in God” (Eph. 3:9), “Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). 

A New Body – The Church

In this new body, the Church, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.   And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:28, 29).

Paul’s entire message revolved around this special revelation that was given to him.  It was a message of freedom for both Jew and Gentile.  To the Gentile, especially, who were previously without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12), this was salvation from “dead works”, meaning, works of the flesh or sinful things.

Works of the Flesh

Unfortunately, many people have missed the point entirely and would dare to categorize keeping God’s moral law as “works of the flesh”, which the Bible clearly identifies as “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like”, of which the Apostle Paul goes on to say that “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19-21). These are the very things that the Ten Commandments forbid!  How could keeping the commandments of God be considered contrary to God or irrelevant?  Nonsense!

The Grace that Brings Salvation

The critical thing to note is that being saved from “the rudiments of the world” and the “tradition of men” or “commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:8, 20-22), makes us “heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29) given to Abraham.  There is nothing in the promise given to Abraham that even remotely suggests that obedience to God is therefore irrelevant.  Rather, Paul emphasises that we must be “zealous of good works” and “rebuke with all authority” in accordance with that truth.  He says:

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” (Titus 2:11-15).

Be Vigilant

So, in closing, we must beware that the Sabbath is threatened.  The threat is not so much at this time by the enforcement of Sunday, which will certainly come. But before it comes, the basis for keeping the Sabbath is being eroded before our very eyes without many realizing it.   If all someone needs to be saved is to claim the free gift of salvation, without any further requirement, then of what relevance is Sabbath-keeping to a Sunday-worshipper who has already accepted Christ?  Certainly, a Sabbath-keeper would be free to keep the Sabbath, as a personal choice, but what is the basis for introducing it to others who are already saved?  Let us awake and be vigilant!  We do well to heed the counsel given by the Lord through Ellen G. White, God’s messenger for these last days:

“The fact that there is no controversy or agitation among God’s people should not be regarded as conclusive evidence that they are holding fast to sound doctrine. There is reason to fear that they may not be clearly discriminating between truth and error. When no new questions are started by investigation of the Scriptures, when no difference of opinion arises which will set men to searching the Bible for themselves to make sure that they have the truth, there will be many now, as in ancient times, who will hold to tradition and worship they know not what.

I have been shown that many who profess to have a knowledge of present truth know not what they believe. They do not understand the evidences of their faith. They have no just appreciation of the work for the present time. When the time of trial shall come, there are men now preaching to others who will find, upon examining the positions they hold, that there are many things for which they can give no satisfactory reason. Until thus tested they knew not their great ignorance.” Ellen G. White, Testimonies Vol. 5, page 707.

The sad thing is that people are teaching error and they don’t want anybody to say anything about it!  How long can this continue?

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).

  • Zerubbabel (Zech. 4:6)

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