Sabbath is a ritual law, not moral

The evidence for the Sabbath being a ritual ceremonial law is overwhelming.

The Bible is clear that the weekly ritual Jewish Sabbath is not the same rest as God’s seventh day rest in Genesis (Hebrews 4; see Sabbathismos).

The Decalogue had the ritual Sabbath (the only ritual law in the ten commandments), as a sign of the covenant only for Israel.

The uniform testimony of the prophets, Jesus, apostles, mainstream Jews, early church fathers, and the protestant reformers is this: Sabbath is a ritual ceremonial law. Let’s examine these things to see if they are so.

 

1) The Scriptures clearly state that the weekly Sabbath is a feast day.

Leviticus 23 is the one chapter in the Bible that lists all of God’s feasts – the weekly Sabbath as well as the other Holy Days. Weekly Sabbath is one of Gods’ appointed FEASTS!

Lev 23:1-24 “The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are MY APPOINTED FEASTS, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as SACRED assemblies. “There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD. “The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering..On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work.’On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.'” The LORD said to Moses, “Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. ”  ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work. (“These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies for bringing offerings made to the LORD by fire–the burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings required for each day. These offerings are in addition to those for the LORD’s Sabbaths and in addition to your gifts and whatever you have vowed and all the freewill offerings you give to the LORD.)  So Moses announced to the Israelites the appointed feasts of the LORD.

How clear can it be? It is claimed by Seventh-Day Adventists that the Lord here separates out the Sabbath from all other holy days, showing that it is of a different nature, in these words, verses 37, 38: “These are the feasts of the Lord: beside the Sabbaths of the Lord.” Yes, but read the whole verse, “Beside the Sabbaths of the Lord, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your free-will offerings, which ye give unto the Lord.”

Not only the Sabbath, but gifts, vows and offerings are also excepted with the Sabbath in the same verse. The idea is this: the Sabbath, the gifts, vows and offerings are of regular weekly or daily occurrence, whereas the other holy days and special offerings were to come only once a year at stated seasons. When these yearly offerings and holy days came at the same time of the regular daily or weekly service they were not to take the place of the regular daily and weekly services, but must be observed besides all these. Any one can see that this is the simple meaning of the words “beside the Sabbaths of the Lord, and beside your gifts,” etc. The idea is not to distinguish the Sabbath above the other feasts, but to say that these must be kept in addition to the regular service of the Sabbath and the daily offerings. 

It’s very plain to see what the Sabbath of the decalogue belongs to. It’s a feast day, a ceremonial law, a ritual law.

Simply because Sabbath is placed within the Ten Commandments (location) doesn’t make it a moral law. The reason why Sabbath is categorized with feast days, and ritual law is because it is a feast day, a ritual law. The reason why it is in the ten commandment is because the ten commandments followed a similar pattern to covenant agreements made by people those days. Covenants contained three parts: Promise, Condition, Sign. For instance, a KING would make a covenant with his conquered NATION, not to kill (Promise), if they provide grain and food (Condition). The (Sign) was often arbitrary and could be an earring in the left ear, an ankle bracelet, or any other external sign. Similarly, the Sabbath was the ‘sign [of the covenant] between me [God] and you (Israel)” (Exodus 31:13).

Almost all Sabbatarian groups like the United Church of God, and many others accept that Sabbath is a feast day, and hence they keep all feasts including the weekly Sabbath, unlike SDA’s .

2) The expression “to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” is used throughout the Old Testament and it is used in ascending or descending order repeatedly and always refers to the weekly, monthly and yearly festivities. 

1 Chron 23:31 “And whenever burnt offerings were presented to the LORD on Sabbaths and at New Moon festivals and at appointed feasts. They were to serve before the LORD regularly in the proper number and in the way prescribed for them.” (here weekly, monthly and yearly is stated).

a) God categorizes Sabbath with new moons and other festivals. Clearly, Sabbath is a ceremonial feast day, a ritual law!

Isaih 66:23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD.

b) In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to the weekly Sabbath, one of God’s feast days as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come.

Colossians 2:16-17 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ 

In fact, “Sabbaton” is translated as “weekly Sabbath” 61 times in the New Testament.  Only here in Colossians 2:17 would sabbatarians want to desperately argue that “sabbaton” no longer means the weekly Sabbath day, but even prominent Sabbatarian scholars (including SDA scholars) have eventually concurred that the weekly Sabbath is referred here.

3) The Sabbath is not a moral law because the priests were allowed to profane it 

Matthew 12:5-8 Or have ye not read in the law, how that ON THE SABBATH DAYS THE PRIESTS IN THE TEMPLE PROFANE THE SABBATH, AND ARE BLAMELESS?

Sabbath was a law that could be broken, set aside, and profaned for various reasons without sin (blameless). Which moral law can be profaned? No moral law could be profaned or set aside under any circumstances . Christian are not above it, but are subject to those moral laws (see: Matt 12:5; Num 28:9-10; Josh 6:15; 1 Ki 20:29; Jn 5:10).

4) The Sabbath is not a moral law because Jesus broke the ritual Sabbath without sin (John 5:10)  just like priests could break it and be blameless. He also defended breaking it and gave examples.

John 5:10. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: IT IS NOT LAWFUL FOR THEE TO CARRY THY BED.

Jews were pointing to a law that the Lord Yahweh gave Israel. Note it is not a law that Pharisees or rabbis added to the Sabbath; it is a law God commanded Israel.

Jeremiah 17:21 Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and BEAR NO BURDEN ON THE SABBATH DAY, NOR BRING IT IN BY THE GATES OF JERUSALEM

John 5:10 so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.

Whatever your interpretation or the interpretation of the Jews on NO BURDEN, the letter of the law said NO burden! While Jews had their rabbinic laws added to the Sabbath, however their accusation against Jesus for breaking the Sabbath law is not based on their added laws, but based on the Torah, THUS SAITH THE LORD (Jeremiah 17:21). This will be proven when Jesus defends Sabbath breaking from the Law of God itself (see point 5).

This is not the only incident. Similarly, Pharisees saw disciples going out and picking grain on the Sabbath as Sabbath law breaking because GOD (not their traditions) commanded Israel to stay in one place on the Sabbath, and prepare food on Friday (Ex 16:29-30). That was how they were instructed to observe Sabbath holy. Jesus once again doesn’t conform to the letter of these Sabbath laws. Moreover, Jesus broke ritual laws on uncleanliness without sin. He touched people with skin diseases, leprosy, blood flows (Leviticus 15:7–8; Matthew 8:3) when the law prohibited touching unclean people. Of course He did it for a purpose and to heal people. There is also a greater message here.

In these circumstances, Pharisees understood Jesus was claiming to be God, and breaking the letter of the Sabbath commandment of the Lord. Both accusations have weight:

John 5:18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

What pharisees failed to see was that not only was Jesus claiming to be the divine Messiah, but the shadows (ritual Sabbath, Cleansing laws) loses their significance when they had the reality (Jesus). Jesus went on to say, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matt. 11:28). True rest is not found in a day but a person. That’s why Paul says Sabbath was a shadow, and the reality is Christ (Col 2:16, 17). 

5) When Jesus’ disciples were hungry on a Sabbath day, and they were picking some heads of grain in a field to eat them. They were accused of breaking the Sabbath: Matt 12:1-6 “At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.'”

Jesus defends His disciples and His Sabbath actions with 2 arguments:

  1. Matt. 12:3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread-which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.

Please ask yourselves: What type of law was David breaking? Moral or ceremonial? It is obvious, it was ceremonial. David was never above the moral law. He had to pay dearly for his sin with Bathseba!

2. Matt. 12:5 “Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?”

Again, giving precedence to the ceremonial priestly law over the Sabbath.

In both of these scenarios given by Jesus Himself, what category is the Sabbath placed under? Moral or ceremonial? 

If David could break the ceremonial law, if priests could break the Sabbath, and if circumcision could be carried out on Sabbath, then Jesus is over and above the ceremonial Sabbath law. Jesus is: Matt 12:8 “Lord of the Sabbath.” This was Jesus’ response and this further shows that he not only broke the letter of the Sabbath law without sin, but he defended breaking it citing Scripture and taught that the ritual Sabbath can be set aside, or broken without sin.

Now let me ask you another question. Could an Israelite kill someone in order to circumcise his child? Could a Jew steal in order to circumcise his child? Could a priest covet in order to do his calling? No, never. These ceremonial laws were never seen as being above the moral law! Why, then, could they break the Sabbath law in favour of their ceremonial law? Why is it that they could not break 9 moral commands in the ten commandments or thousands of morals laws in the Bible for any reason, but the law about the Sabbath could be broken in favour of the ceremonial law? Think about it!

5) Sabbath is not a moral law because the Israelites could honour their ceremonial laws above the Sabbath law.

Jesus Himself declared:

John 7:21-23 “Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath?”

Circumcision took precedence over Sabbath. The law of Moses stated that every male child was to be circumcised on the eighth day. If this day happened to fall on the Sabbath day, the child would be circumcised, despite the fact that this was working on the Sabbath day of rest and breaking it! Clearly showing Sabbath is ceremonial, and circumcision had higher value as a ritual more than Sabbath. The message was no one was expected to observe the rituals  like the Sabbath unless they became Jews first through circumcision, the entrance sign of the old covenant.

6) The Prophets treated Sabbath as a Ceremonial Law.

Isaiah 1:13: “Bring no more futile sacrificeincense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the SABBATHS, and the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts, My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.”

Here God counts all the SABBATHS along with the rest of the Ceremonial Law, when He tells Israel not to bother keeping it (even though He had ordained it), because it has no value to Him with Israel in sin. However God would never command Israel to stop keeping any of the Moral Law! The Sabbath is Ceremonial!

Hosea 2:11: “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, Her feast days, Her New Moons, Her Sabbaths – all her appointed feasts.” 


Again God classifies the Sabbaths among the Ceremonial Laws, and who are we to do otherwise? According to this prophecy, it is God Who will cause Israel’s Sabbaths to cease for a period of time. That is, He will cancel His Sabbath Command to Israel. He fulfilled this prophecy by annulling the Old Covenant and bringing in the New Covenant for this Dispensation, which has no Sabbath Law or feast days.

Hebrews 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

Now it is not possible for God to cause His Moral Law to cease or pass away, as it is eternal and unchanging. Therefore all the things mentioned in this verse (including the Sabbaths) are Ceremonial.

8) The Law treats the Sabbath as ceremonial in nature by its requirements. 

Numbers 28:9-10 And on the sabbath day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two tenth deals of flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and the drink offering thereof: This is the burnt offering of EVERY sabbath, beside the continual burnt offering, and his drink offering.

Sabbath was part of the ritual worship system of Israel, and when the priesthood change (Jesus is our high priest now), so did this ritual system of Sabbath law changed. It is not longer binding, not commanded in the new covenant, neither is there an example of Christians observing this ritual, but Christians have the liberty to observe it, but not to judge anyone if they don’t (Col. 2;16,17).

9) Whereas the MORAL Law of God is based on His nature and is eternal, transcending time and all covenants, circumstances and local conditions; the Sabbath Law, by nature and definition, is temporal and created, not eternal. It was given for the first time in Exodus 16 only to the Jews. There is no time in eternity, but Sabbath is based on earth-time, marking one day in seven, so it is clearly temporal and creational.

10)  A moral law, unlike a ceremonial or ritual law,  is in effect 24/7 (every nanosecond of time) and not merely once a year, season, month, or week. Also, moral laws are never trumped by any ceremonial laws (i.e., ritual circumcision on the eighth day, priestly sacrifices, weekly showbread placement, etc.), and they never allow any exceptions due to works of charity, mercy, or necessity for proper compliance. Surely, there is never a valid excuse to worship another god, to murder someone, to steal something, to commit adultery, etc.

11) Mark 2:27,28: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath”

Here Jesus was clearly correcting the error of the Jewish Rabbis who elevated the Sabbath above man. He points out that the Sabbath Law is not eternal, but that it it was made (created) for man. However, moral Law is before man and above man, but the Sabbath Law came after man, exists for man and so is under man, therefore the Son of Man who is Lord of the Sabbath, meaning have authority over the Sabbath, and is above it!

Jesus makes the statement that He is Lord over the Sabbath, after defending that He can break it and still be blameless  just like David could break the ritual law be blameless:

Mark 2:24-27 Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?

25 But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: 26 how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?”

27 And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

11) Moreover the Sabbath started at Moses (Ex. 16) – if it was a Moral Commandment it would have applied from the beginning. If the Sabbath is part of the eternal moral character of God, it would have been observed in heaven in eternity past before creation. Instead, the Sabbath was created for man under the Mosaic law, and it is related to the rotation cycle of earth. Unless heaven and other planets have the same rotation cycle it is irrelevant. Revelation indicates that the day-night cycle will cease in the new earth (Revelation 21:25), implying that there will be no Sabbaths.

13) Natural law and the conscience do not reveal that a man should observe a day or seventh day unless it is commanded.

Rom. 2:14‑15 “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another.”

Think about this for a moment. Regardless of what country, what culture or language you were raised with we ALL have morality stamped within our conscience. Adolescent children all around the world naturally know it is wrong to lie, to steal, and to murder and commit adultery – this is how gentiles knew about the moral law of God even without the LAW. However no one naturally feels guilty about not resting 1 day in 7. That is the difference between a rule that is based on moral right and wrong, and a rule that is practiced because of a ceremonial nature.

Man’s conscience does not naturally tell him that he is being immoral, if he does some work on a Saturday, whereas it would convict him of sin, if he broke any of the moral commands. Therefore our God-given conscience tells us that by its very nature, the Sabbath is not absolute Moral Law.

14) If the Sabbath Law was Moral Law, it would have also been included in the New Testament, but it is not, in contrast to all the other 9 Commandments, and thousands of moral commands which are all clearly moral.

Although Jesus kept the Sabbath as a Jew who lived under the Law before the Cross, that is no basis for us to keep the Sabbath today. He also observed circumcision which is superior to Sabbath law and many other laws in the Mosaic law. Should we too?

Although He gave us many Commandments for the new dispensation, He never gave the Sabbath Law. Not only is it absent from the teaching of Jesus, but also from the teaching of His Apostles, and from example of gentile Christians (see no Christian Sabbath keeping in Acts). This would be a glaring omission if it were a vital moral Commandment that we had to keep. This is especially true, with all the Gentiles coming into the Church, who were not used to keeping the SabbathIf it was an eternal Moral Law, then it would be a major New Testament teaching, and one of the main things that would have had to be taught to new converts. If the Sabbath was Law for us now, it would surely be in the New Testament. The absence of the Sabbath Law in the New Testament is further proof that it is Ceremonial just like the Bible states it.

In fact, when the issue arose concerning what parts of the Law of Moses the Gentile converts should keep, there was a Church Council to decide the issue (Acts 15:1-29) and the Sabbath was not even mentioned. When the leaders gave the list of requirements for believing Gentiles to keep, the Sabbath was not included, in fact there was nothing specifically from the Law of Moses that was given for the believing Gentiles to keep. If God wants New Testament Gentile believers to obey the Sabbath then surely it would have been brought up in Acts 15.

Paul explicitly states in Col 2:16, 17 that the weekly Sabbath was a shadow that pointed to Jesus, and that as such it is not the basis for judgment of a Christian.

Further, God condemned heathen gentile nations for murder, idol worship, child sacrifices but never for not observing the Sabbath in the old testament. There is no command or even an example of anyone observe the seventh day in Genesis. If Sabbath is so vital, we would have had plenty of instructions for violating. Instead, the WEEKLY Sabbath was GIVEN only to the Jewish nation, and its SIGN, RITUAL distinguished them from the rest of the nations. Moral laws are for all people and they are never a SIGN such as circumcision, passover, sabbath!

15) Jesus, the apostles, the early church fathers, Luther, Calvin, all understood that Sabbath was ceremonial. None of these believed that the Pope or Roman Catholic church changed the Sabbath. Instead they saw that it was abrogated as clearly stated in the new testament and by the apostles.

Jesus taught that the Sabbath law is a ritual law unlike moral laws where people are not above it.

“The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27)

Mainstream Jews taught that Sabbath was not a universal moral law given to everyone but just the Jews:

The Jewish Talmud says: “The children of Noah…were given seven Laws only, the observance of the Sabbath not being among them.” (Soncino edition, p. 131),Sanhedrin 56 a, b; and Midrash Song of Songs Rabbah 1:2(5) (Soncino edition, pp. 26-27).

Jews believe that Sabbath is a ritual law, not a moral law; the only ritual law in the Ten (See: Jewfacts.org)

Apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit taught that in the new covenant, no one should judge anyone on the Sabbath, Christian can treat every day (all seven days) alike, those who insist on observing days for any reason connected to meriting favor from God do not understand the gospel:

Col. 2:16 ”Therefore do not let anyone judge you..with regard to a Sabbath day”

Rom. 14:5 ”One man regards a certain day above the others, while someone else considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind”

Gal 4: 10, 11 ”You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain

Testimony of the early church fathers, some of whom who learned from the mouth of the apostles was that Sabbath was not kept before Moses, nor is it binding in the new covenant:

Ignatius of Antioch (AD 110): ”If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death (Letter to the Magnesians(shorter) Chapter IX.—Let us live with Christ [A.D. 110]).

Justin Martyr (AD 155): For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the Son of God has been born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham (The Second Apology of Justin for the Christians Addressed to the Roman Senate. Chapter XXIII.—The opinion of the Jews regarding the law does an injury to God).

Tertullian (AD 203): “Let him who contends that the Sabbath is still to be observed as a balm of salvation, and circumcision on the eighth day . . . teach us that, for the time past, righteous men kept the Sabbath or practiced circumcision, and were thus rendered ‘friends of God.’ Therefore, since God originated Adam uncircumcised and unobservant of the Sabbath..(An Answer to the Jews Chapter II.—The Law Anterior to Moses. [A.D. 203]).

Augustine of Hippo (AD 400): When you ask why a Christian does not keep the Sabbath, if Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it, my reply is, that a Christian does not keep the Sabbath precisely because what was prefigured in the Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ. For we have our Sabbath in Him who said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Reply to Faustus the Manichæan. Book XIX.-9)

Even SDA J.N Andrews admitted about early church fathers: “We must, therefore, pronounce Justin a man who held to the abrogation of the ten commandments, and that the Sabbath was a Jewish institution which was unknown before Moses, and of no authority since Christ. He held Sunday to be the most suitable day for public worship.” Page 44. This is the doctrine that the early church and fathers held. 

Martin Luther taught the validity of the moral law of the old covenant but saw Sabbath as ceremonial.

Scripture has abrogated the Sabbath day; for it teaches that since the gospel has been revealed, all the ceremonies of the old law can be omitted” (Article 28, The Augsburg Confession(1530)).

John Calvin wrote:

First, with the seventh day of rest the Lord wished to give to the people of Israel an image of spiritual rest…there is no doubt that it ceased in Christ (Col. 2:17),  Hence, though the sabbath is abrogated, it so happens among us that we still convene on certain days in order to hear the word of God” ([From Instruction in Faith, Calvin’s own 1537 digest of the Institutes, sec. 8, “The Law of the Lord”].


Sabbatarians falsely argue that the Sabbath law is a moral law merely because it is in the ten commandments.

What does the argument: “because it is in the 10 commandments” prove? NOTHING! The Sabbath law is not “moral” just because it was numbered with the other nine commandments. They are assuming the point to be proved and this is circular reasoning! What’s engraved on stone (ten) and with ink (ten including law of Moses) is done away (2 Cor. 3:7). In other words we don’t go to stones tables or law of Moses to know if killing is wrong. We go to the teaching of Jesus and the apostles who reiterates all moral principles of God, but who clearly states that many laws have changed now in the new covenant like circumcision, Sabbaths, dietary laws etc.

Another false Adventist argument is that the Sabbath law is moral BECAUSE violation was punishable by death: Ex 31:15;35:2. Yet the truth is that all the following non-moral or ceremonial laws were punishable by death:

  • For touching the Ark: 2 Sam 6:7
  • Aaron’s sons, (Nadab and Abihu) priests were killed for violating ceremonial law when offering incense to Jehovah: Lev 10:1-5
  • for touching the mount Horeb: Ex 19:12-13
  • Unauthorized entrance into the holy place of the tabernacle: Lev 16:2
  • For looking into the Ark: 1 Sam 6:19
  • For disobeying ceremonial commands of any Priest: Deuteronomy 17:12-13; Exodus 31:14 “Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.”

Sabbatarians are falsely taught that the Sabbath is moral because spoken by God verbally and personally written on stone. Yet God verbally and personally spoke many “ceremonial laws”, and what’s engraved on stone is done away:

  • God verbally and personally spoke many altar, sacrifice and offering laws at exactly the same time he have the 10 commandments: Ex 20:21-26
  • Sabbatarians would admit that the “foremost” moral law, to love God and your neighbour as yourself, was not even spoken verbally and personally by God. Mt 22:36-40. This alone proves that the “verbal/personal” argument is invalid!
  • God verbally and personally spoke to many from Adam to Moses regarding burnt offerings: Cain and Abel’s offerings
  • God verbally and personally spoke the land promise: Gen 17:8
  • God verbally and personally spoke the law of circumcision: Gen 17:10
  • God verbally and personally spoke to all these: Job 38:1; 42:7; 1 Ki 19:9,12; 1 Sam 23:12; 30:8,10; Ex 33:11; Num 12:8; Deut 5:3
  • The Bible nowhere teaches that things verbally, personally or handwritten by God are eternal! What’s one stone is out!

The Sabbath is moral and sacred inherently in itself?

  • Other than merely stating this, what proof do Sabbatarians offer??? None! But we can prove otherwise!
  • The First seventh day was sanctified not because it was inherently moral, but because God rested on that day! The seventh day was not holy because it was the seventh day, but because God declared it to be and MADE it holy above the other six days of the week after he rested on it!
  • [God made this specific day Holy, not every seventh day, and He did not command Adam and Eve to observe it! This day had a REST that was much bigger than a weekly rest as Hebrews 4 shows, and we can enter it every day, TODAY, as Hebrews 4 clearly states.
  • God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, but that does not mean that he required people to rest on it. As the Jubilee year shows (Lev. 25:8-12), time can be holy without requiring a rest.]
  • The day itself did not make it holy, resting on it did not make it holy, but God blessing and hallowing it did. Thus its holiness did not come from its own nature but from an act of God in blessing and hallowing it.
  • In this regard, the first seventh day is no more inherently “holy” than any of the other Jewish weekly Sabbath or other holy days that God blessed and set apart in the Law of Moses.
  • The Jewish weekly Sabbath was MADE in Exodus 16 for the first time, and was a shadow of God’s rest in Genesis.

Paul explicitly states in Col 2:16, 17 that this weekly Jewish Sabbath was a shadow that pointed to Jesus, and that as such it is not the basis for judgment of a Christian. He explicitly states in Romans 14 that Christians are free to observe special days, and Christians are free to treat very single day the same. Paul says explicitely in Gal. 4 that saying a person is required by God to keep special days and times and so forth, puts the Christian back into the slavery he was set free from.

(The above has been adapted from LoudCry.org, and various Sabbath articles)

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The New & Old Covenants

No other subject perplexes Adventists so much as the covenants. They dread to meet it. They have tried various ways to explain it away, but they are not satisfactory even to themselves. I have been there and know. The abolition of the Sinatic covenant carries with it the abolition of the Jewish Sabbath so completely that no authoritative trace of it can be found this side of the grave of our risen Lord.

Adventist Elder Smith said: “If the ten commandments constituted the old covenant, then they are forever gone.” “This, therefore, becomes a test question.” Two Covenants, page 5. 

We will soon see the force of this. Jer. 31:31, 32, says: “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

Here we learn these facts about the first, or old covenant:

1. It was made between God and Israel.

2. It was made when he brought them out of Egypt.

3. A new covenant is to be made.

4. It will not be according to the old one.

Adventists and all agree that this old covenant is found in Ex. 19 to 24. We all know that the ten commandments, how and why they were given, are the prominent things in those five chapters. We also know that they are called “the covenant,” that was given on Sinai or Horeb.

Thus: “And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.

“The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.” Deut. 4:12,13; 5:2,3. Then follows the ten commandments as the covenant named. Again: “The tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you.” Deut. 9:9. So also, “and he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” Ex. 34:28. Surely this is plain enough for a common man. 

What is a covenant? As the decalogue alone is not a mutual agreement, it must enter into, and so become a part of, some agreement, to be called the covenant as it is so frequently. Examining, we find that the decalogue was the very basis of the covenant at Sinai; the chief thing in the covenant between God and Israel. This even Elder Smith owns: “It was the basis of the whole arrangement.” The Two Covenants, page 10. Being the chief thing in the covenant, it is by way of eminence put for the whole and so called “the covenant.”

Opening to Ex. 19, we read: “In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.” Verse 1. It was at Sinai as they came out of Egypt. Moses was mediator.

Verse 3. The Lord sends him to say to Israel “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine.”

Verse. 5. Moses goes and repeats this offer to the Jews: they say: “All that the Lord hath said we will do.”

Verse 8. Here was an agreement, a covenant, between God and Israel. They agree to obey his voice. He agrees to bless them. Next they prepare to hear his voice. Verses 9-25.

In Chap. 20 God speaks the ten commandments and follows them with various precepts through Moses to the end of chapter 23, closing with a promise to bless their bread and water, to take away sickness from them, to drive out the Canaanites and give them the land

Chapter 24:1-8, relates how Moses then rehearsed to the people “all the words of the Lord and all the judgments.” Again they agree to obey.

Verse 3. Then “Moses wrote all the words of the Lord” in a book.

Verse 4. Assembling the people again, he read “the book of the covenant” to them, and the third time they say, “All that the Lord hath said we will do.” Verse 7.

Verse 8. “And Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.’  

That closed the covenant. We know that this was the first, or old, covenant, for the author of Hebrews, quoting this very verse, says it was. Heb. 9:18-20. 

Heb 8:13-9:5

8:13  By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

9:1 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lamp stand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.

Notice that the Old Covenant included ceremonial aspects, and also the “stone tables of the covenant.”  It cannot be any clearer. That settles it.

How much did the covenant embrace? Only one truthful answer can be given, viz. All included in the record from Ex. 19:1 to Ex. 24:8, for this is the covenant in detail written out.

Is the decalogue included in it? As well deny that the sun shines, for there it is written out in full in the very heart of the covenant. Ex. 20:1-17. As Smith said above, “It was the basis of the whole arrangement.” It was so prominent a part of the covenant that it alone is put for the whole covenant, as we often speak of seeing a vessel, a house, or a river, when we saw only a part of it. 

Hence:

  • The stones on which the decalogue was written are called “the tables of the covenant,” Deut. 9:9
  • The book in which it was written was called “the book of the covenant,” Ex. 24:7
  • The ark in which it was deposited was called “the ark of the covenant,” Deut. 31:26.

But Ex. 19-24, is only an epitome of the covenant; for all the subsequent teachings of Moses are only a further explanation of it and belonged to it. Indeed, it gave its name to the whole Old Testament, that is, Old Covenant.

This covenant was only national and temporal, given only to the Jews and referred only to earthly blessings. It made no reference to the future life. It was an engagement of God, to give Israel possession of Canaan,” etc. “It did not refer to the final salvation of individuals.” On Ex. 19:5.

Now notice how plainly and how repeatedly the ten commandments are called “the covenant,” which God gave at Sinai to Israel when he brought them out of Egypt.

  • “And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.” Deut. 4:13.
  • “When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you.” Deut. 9:9.

What covenant was on the tables of stone? The one the Lord made with them. Again he tells when it was made and what it was:

  • “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire (I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to shew you the word of the Lord: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount), saying, I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me.” Deut. 5:2-7. So He goes on giving the ten commandments. That ought to settle it. 
  • “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” Ex. 34:27, 28.

If that is not plain enough, what would be?

  • “There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.” “And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the Lord, which he made with our fathers when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.” 1 Kings, 8:9-21.
  • “And in it have I put the ark, wherein is the covenant of the Lord, that he made with the children of Israel.” 2 Chron. 6:11.

This shuts off all possible doubt as to what the covenant was. 1) There was nothing in the ark except the tables of stone. 2) Yet in that ark was “the covenant of the Lord which he made with Israel when he brought them out of Egypt.” That certainly was the ten commandments. Elder Smith says: “If the ten commandments constituted the old covenant, then they are forever gone.Two Covenants, page 5. So they are indeed as we will now see.

That Covenant Is Done Away

As we have seen, Jeremiah, Chap. 31:31-34, foretold that the Lord would make a new covenant not according to the old one. The author of Hebrews quotes this in full and says it is fulfilled in the gospel, thus: 

“But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” Heb. 8:6-13.

Notice the points in this. 

1. Jesus is mediator of a better covenant than the old. Verse 6. Then we have something better than the decalogue. 

2. The new is established on better promises than the old, which as we have seen, were all temporal. See Ex. 23:22-33. But the promises of the new covenant are all spiritual. They are

(1) God’s laws are to be in their hearts.

(2) All shall know the Lord, as only converted souls will be admitted; whereas under the old, every member of the nation, good or bad, was a citizen.

(3) God will forgive and forget all their sins, and so they will all be saints and heirs of heaven.

(4) Hebrews says that if the first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second. 

This shows that the first covenant was always imperfect. Hence the Lord says he will make a new one, not according to the old one. Then we cannot have the old decalogue right over again unchanged. Finally, Hebrews says the first is made old and is ready to vanish away. That ends the old covenant, the one from Sinai, the ten commandments as the Bible shows.

In 2 Cor. 3 Paul makes it even plainer still that the decalogue has been removed.

Verse 3. “Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. verse 6. Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament [covenant] not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 7. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away; 8. How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9. For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 11. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. 13. And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14. But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ.”

Observe the following points: 

1. Verse 3 refers to the prophecy of Jeremiah that a new covenant would supersede the old one on stones. Now Paul says it is not written with ink as the law of Moses was in a book, nor on stones as the decalogue was, but by the spirit in the heart. The law in the book and on stones have both gone. 

2. Verse 6: he says the apostles do not minister the letter but the spirit. “The letter refers exclusively to *the law*.” “The context shows that by the letter he meant the old covenant and by the spirit the new.”

3. To put it beyond all doubt, as to what he means, Paul, in verse 7, specifies “the ministration of death written and engraven in stones.” Surely we know that this was the decalogue. This he calls “the ministration of death.” 

4. In verses 8 and 9 he calls the gospel “the ministration of the spirit” and “the ministration of righteousness” and says that it exceeds in glory the old ministration of death. 

5. To put it beyond doubt that he means the decalogue, he refers to the vail which Moses put over his face when he came down with the tables of stone in his hands. Compare verse 13 with Ex. 34:27-35.

6. Twice Paul directly names that which was “written in stone,” verses 3 and 7; once he says we do not minister the letter, verse 6; he says that that which was engraven in stones was the ministration of death, verse 7, and the “ministration of condemnation,” verse 9; then he says this was “abolished,” verse 13, and three times he says it “was done away,”verses 7, 11, 14. 7.

Compare verses 7 and 11. “The ministration of death written and engraven in stones was glorious” and “that which is done away was glorious;” the very thing which was written in stones in verse 7, is said to “be done away” in verse 11.

8. In verse 7 the ten commandments are evidently taken to represent the whole Mosaic dispensation. If these, the foundation of the whole system, are removed, then of course all the system must go with them. “The ten commandments thus written here represent the whole Mosaic economy.”

Adventists have tried to save their theory here by saying that in verse 7, “ministration” was not what was “engraven” in stones; but that “death” is what was written there. This will not do. In the Greek the word for engraven exactly agrees with *ministration* but does not agree with *death*, hence the decalogue is what is called “the ministration,” and that was done away. Dr. Adam Clarke says on this verse: “Here the apostle evidently intends the law.” “This ministration of death, the ten commandments, written on stones, a part of the Mosaic institution, being put for the whole, was glorious.”

The Pulpit Commentary on this verse says: “Literally, *engraved in* letters on stones (Ex. 31:18). The reference shows that, in speaking of ‘the letter,’ St. Paul was only thinking of the Mosaic Law, and indeed, specifically of the decalogue.” How can a candid man deny that Paul meant this very thing, the decalogue?

To the Galatians Paul also writes that the covenant of Sinai has gone. It will be seen that he uses “covenant” and “law” as synonymous, showing that the law was the covenant [cf: ”Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments (Mal. 4:4); ”The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb” (Deut. 5:2)].

“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.” Gal. 4:21-24. Here the old law covenant of Sinai is declared to be “bondage” and he says “Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Chap. 5:1.

So in Heb. 12:18-24, Paul distinctly says that Christians do not go to Sinai and the thunders of the law, but they come to Jesus and the new covenantRead it all. Here are a few sentences:

For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest. And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake: But ye are come unto Mount Sion. And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.”

Adventists are always dwelling upon the terrible scenes at Sinai at the giving of the law and pointing others there; but Paul says, No, do not go there; but to Mount Sion, to Jesus and the new covenant, to its teachings.

So Jeremiah predicted the rejection of the covenant in the ark and that instead of it, men would seek to the name of the Lord at Jerusalem where the gospel went forth.

“In those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, the ark of the, covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind; neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem.” Jer. 3:16,17.

Adventists are trying to revive the very thing the Lord said should be forgotten, “the ark of the covenant.” All their study and worship is centered around that just as of old with the Jews. But the effort is vain. God has said it. Since the cross Jesus and Jerusalem have been where all eyes have turned while the ark and old covenant are forgotten, just as the Lord said it would be. So Isa. 2:3; “Out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” There is where we now go for the law, not to the ark or to Sinai.

Adapted: Covenants by Dudley Marvin. Retrieved from : https://www.nonegw.org/canright/sdar19.htm

The Decalogue Examined

The Decalogue Examined


With Seventh-Day Adventists the decalogue is the one supreme moral and spiritual law of God, than which there is none higher. It is the law which governs the angels in heaven. It governs all men in all ages, and in the world to come. These tencommandments cover the whole duty of man, so that there is no sin which can be committed that is not a violation of this law, while at the same time it enjoins every virtue. 

But these claims are extravagant and unfounded. A desire to sustain the seventh-day Sabbath has led to this false position on the decalogue. Twenty-five hundred years, nearly half the entire history of the world, passed away before the decalogue was given at all, as the Bible clearly says. This is strange if the decalogue is so all important.

Let us examine it. Moses says distinctly that all the words which the Lord spoke were written on the tables of stone:

“And the Lord delivered unto me two tables of stone, written with the finger of God: and on them was written according to all the words which the Lord spake with you in the Mount, out of the midst of the fire.” Deut. 9:10

This text is too decisive to be evaded. All that God spoke was written on the tables and was a part of the decalogue. Here are the first of those words: 

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” etc. Ex. 20:1-3. 

These words are as much a part of the decalogue as any of the rest of it. They were spoken by God from heaven, written by his finger, were engraven on the stone, and put in the ark. Now look at the law chart which Seventh-Day Adventists hang up as the “law of God.” Are these words on there? No, indeed. Why are they left off ? 

Because, if put on, they would spoil their whole theory of that law. They claim that this law is binding upon the angels. But how would this sound to the angels: “I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”? Were the angels in bondage in Egypt? Would not that sound a little queer to Gabriel and the seraphs, to be told that they had been in bondage in Egypt? Read it to Adam. That would have been news to him to learn that he had been in bondage in Egypt! Read it to a free-born American; read it to all the redeemed hosts in heaven. To whom are the words applicable? Just to the Jewish nation and to no others. For them the decalogue was framed and to them it was given. For years I searched to find one text stating that THIS law was ever given to any people but the Jews. I never found it. These first words show plainly that it was addressed only to them.

Seventh-Day Adventists assert that the Sabbath precept is the only thing in the decalogue that tells who gave it. Thus: “Aside from this precept [the Sabbath] there is nothing in the decalogue to show by whose authority the law is given.” Mrs. White, in Great Controversy, page 284

This is not true. The introductory words tell plainly who gave it. It was the God who brought them out of Egypt. Here are the name, signature and seal of that law in the first words of it. Here God stands before them as their *Deliverer*, rather than as their *Creator*. Their obedience to these commands is based upon this fact. See how plain it is. I am the Lord thy God that brought thee out of Egypt, therefore thou shalt do thus and so. Egypt, not Eden, is pointed to. In the copy of the decalogue as given in Deut. 5:6-21, there is no reference whatever to creation, while deliverance from Egypt is made prominent. “To extend it further than its own preface is to violate the rules of criticism.”

What an unnatural and unheard of thing it would be, in giving an important document, to sign the, name of the author in the middle of it, as Sabbatarians say the Lord did in giving the decalogue! In our time the name is signed at the close of a document; but anciently, specially among the Jews, the name of the author was, always given first, in the first sentence of the document. 

Thus:

  • “Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra,” etc. Ezra 7:12.
  • The vision of Isaiah,” etc. Isa. 1:1.
  • “The words of Jeremiah,” etc. Jer. 1:1.
  • “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,” etc. Rom. 1:1.
  • “James, a servant of God,” etc. Jas. 1:1.
  • “Peter, an apostle,” etc. 1 Pet. 1:1. 

So it is all through the Bible, the name and authority are given first, then follows the body of the document. Just so the Lord, according to this ancient custom then in use and familiar to all, in giving the decalogue first announces his name, “the Lord thy God,” and his power, “that brought thee out of Egypt.”

This he does in the opening words of that law. Here, then, in the very first words of the decalogue, and not in the Sabbath precept in the middle of the law, is the name of the law-giver. Jehovah, who brought them out of Egypt. This settles it that this law was not given till then, was given only to the Jews and was designed for no others.

To illustrate: Opening to a law passed by the legislature of Michigan, February 16, 1882, I read: “Be it enacted by the senate and house of representatives of the state of Michigan,” etc. Now suppose that some one should claim that this law was passed one thousand years ago and was designed for the whole world. Would not these opening words show that this law was not enacted till Michigan became a state and that it was designed only for the people of Michigan? Assuredly. 

Just so the opening words of the decalogue show that this law was not given till God brought Israel out of Egypt, that it was given to them and to no others. If any one will find a copy of the decalogue before this time, we will give up the case. All the way through it there are evidences that it was worded to fit only the Jewish nation in their peculiar circumstances.

Take the Sabbath commandment: “Thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.” Ex. 20:10

Think of that commandment being given to angels in Heaven! “Sons,” “daughters,” and “thy neighbor’s wife,” verse 17, when they neither marry nor are given in marriage! 

Again: “Cattle,” “ox,” “ass,” etc. Do the angels own cattle and work oxen and asses in heaven? So “man servants and maid servants.” This means bond servants or slaves, such as the Hebrews owned in those days. This is shown also by the tenth commandment, verse 17. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s man servant, nor his maid servant, nor his ox, nor his ass.”

 These were his property, servants or slaves, oxen, asses, etc. But do the angels own slaves? Did Adam have servants in Eden? Will the redeemed own them hereafter? What nonsense to apply this law to the angels and to Eden and to heaven! This wording was specially adapted to the social condition of the Jews as a nation in the land of Canaan, and to no others.

Once more: “Thy stranger that is within thy gates.” Verse 10. As everybody knows, “the stranger” was the Gentile. “Within thy gates” was a common expression meaning within your cities or dwelling in your land. It has no reference to living on your farm or inside the gates that enclose your farm, as Adventists always explain it. The towns were walled in and entered by gates. Here is where the judges sat and all business was done. Thus: “All that went in at the gate of his city.” Gen. 23:10. “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates.” Deut. 16:18. To this custom of the Jews the Sabbath commandment refers. All the Gentiles dwelling in their cities among them must be made to keep the Sabbath. This shows it to be a national law, worded in all its parts to fit the circumstances of the Jews at the time.

This command, then, could not apply to any but the Jews there.

Again, the fifthcommandment: “The land which the Lord giveth them,” verse 12, plainly refers to Canaan, which God gave them.

The ninth precept: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbors” This does not relate to lying in general, but only to a false oath against a neighbor in court. See Deut. 19:15-19. A man could tell a hundred lies which would not be false witness against a neighbor. The command against lying is found in Lev. 19:11: “Neither lie one to another.” This is a moral precept much broader than the ninth commandment.

Every principle contained in the decalogue is also found time and again laid down in the law of Moses, either in the same or similar words. Thus, for example: Lev. 19 reiterates every principle found in the ten commandments, with many more besides. How erroneous, then, to call one (ten commandments) the moral law and the other the ceremonial law, when both are of the same nature, the decalogue simply being representative precepts from the law of Moses.

But the chief argument used to prove the superior nature of the ten commandments is that they were spoken by God’s voice, written by His finger on stone, and placed in the ark, while all the rest of the law was written by the hand of Moses in a book.

Why were these commandments thus selected out and given in such a manner if not to exalt them above all others?

The answer is easy: According to the custom of those times, any solemn contract or covenant was commemorated by selecting some object as witness or testimony of it. Thus:

  • Jacob erected a pillar as a witness of his vow to God. Gen. 28:18.
  • Jacob and Laban made a heap of stones as witness of their covenant. Gen. 31:48.
  • Abraham set apart seven lambs as “a witness” of his covenant with Abimelech. Gen. 21:27-30.

Just so when the solemn covenant was made between God and Israel at Sinai, the Lord gave them the tables of stone to be always kept as a witness or “testimony” of that agreement. Hence they are called the tables of testimony,” that is, witness. Ex. 31:18. 

So the tabernacle was “the tabernacle of testimony,” Num. 1:53; or, “the tabernacle of witness,” Num. 17:7. These tables of stone, then, containing some of the chief items of the law, were always to be kept as “witness” of the covenant which Israel had made to keep that law. Evidently this is the reason why the decalogue was given as it was, and not because it was a perfect and eternal law in and of itself.

Manifestly it would have been impossible to carry around the whole law if written on stones; hence only a few samples out of that law could have been selected and put on stones to be kept as a witness of that covenant. So the reason why God spoke these words was not because it was a perfect law, but to impress their minds so that they never would forget it. This is just what God says himself: “I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live.” Deut. 4:10. How much more simple and manifest these reasons are than the imaginary ones invented by Sabbatarians.

That the decalogue was merely the national law for the Jews and temporal in its obligation, is proved by the fact that stoning to death was the penalty for its violation.When death was thus inflicted upon a man, he had paid the penalty of that law, and all the penalty there was. But is stoning to death the penalty for God’s moral law? No, that is eternal death at the judgment. A man who is hung for murder has paid the penalty of the law of our land, the same as the Jew who was stoned paid the penalty of the law of his land. Will God judge a man the second time at the judgment by the law of our land after he has once paid its penalty by hanging? No, but he will be judged by another and a higher law, the great spiritual law of God. And so it will be with the Jews. They will never be judged the second time by the decalogue, for that was only national, but by the higher law, the one that requires supreme love to God, and love to man as to himself. A law without a penalty is a nullity; but stoning, the penalty attached to the decalogue, was abolished at the cross; hence the law also ceased there too.

Seventh-Day Adventists claim that the ten commandments are a perfect law, condemning every possible sin and requiring every possible virtue. But this is all assumption and contrary to the manifest truth. Which one of the ten commandments condemns pride, boasting, drunkenness, unthankfulness, love of pleasure, anger, filthy talk, impatience, variance, selfishness, and the like? 

Which one of the ten commandments requires us to feed the poor, to visit the fatherless and the widow, to suffer long and be kind, to be gentle, meek, temperate, to pray, to repent, to go to meeting, to forgive, and the like?

No, the, decalogue does no such thing, because it was made for no such purpose. It was merely prohibitory in its nature. The man who merely did nothing, who simply avoided crime, kept that law. But the law of God, by which a Christian must live, requires him to do, and to do much. He must love God, love his neighbor, love his enemies, visit the widow and the needy, suffer wrong, be patient, entertain strangers, and be active in every good work.

It requires unceasing activity and the consecration of all our energies to good works; but the decalogue requires nothing but to avoid open crime. The decalogue alone is never called the law of God, nor the law of the Lord, nor a perfect law, nor is it said that any one will be judged by it, or that it is binding on Christians.

 

Eminent Authors On The Decalogue

Many of the most eminent, devout and learned men of the church have held that the decalogue was abolished, though they were far from being Antinomians.

Among these were the apostolical fathers, Luther, Calvin, Milton, Baxter, Bunyan, Doddridge, Whately, Grotius, Locke, Sherlock, Watts, Hessey, Judson, George Dana Boardman, and a host of such men. 

Justin Martyr, A. D. 140, says: “The law promulgated on Horeb is now old and belongs to yourselves (Jews) alone: but this is for all universally. Now law placed against law has abrogated that which is before it.” Dialogue with Trypho, Chap. 11. On this Elder Andrew says: “That Justin held to the abrogation of the ten commandments is also manifested.” Testimony of the Fathers, page 43.

Tertullian, A. D. 200, says: “The abolition of the ancient law we fully admit.” Against Marcian, Book 5. Chap. 2. On the law he quotes Col. 2:16, and says: “The apostle here teaches clearly how it has been abolished.” Ibid. Chap. 19.

Luther says: “The ten commandments do not apply to us Gentiles and Christians, but only to the Jews. If a preacher wishes to force you back to Moses, ask him whether you were brought by Moses out of Egypt. If he says no, then say: ‘How, then, does Moses concern me, since he speaks (in the ten words) to the people that have been brought out of Egypt.’ In the New Testament Moses comes to an end and his laws lose their force.”

Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, says: “In its individual, or what is usually called its ‘moral’ aspect, the Law bore equally the stamp of transitoriness. It seems clear enough that its formal, coercive authority as a whole, ended with the close of the Jewish dispensation.” 

Says Dr. Dobbs, Baptist says this was the teaching of the protestant reformers : “Nor is this ‘new and dangerous teaching.’ It was the doctrine of the Protestant reformers of the sixteenth century’.

Rev. George Dana Boardman, D. D., the eminent Baptist divine, in his recent book on “TheTen Commandments,” says: “Although the decalogue, in its spirit, is for all lands and ages, yet, in its letter, it was evidently for the Jews. The very preamble proves the assertion: ‘God spake all these words, saying: I am Jehovah, thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.’ Then follow the ten commandments, based on the unique fact that Jehovah was the covenant God of Israel.” Pages 127-130.

John Milton says: “With regard to the doctrine of those who consider the decalogue as a code of universal morality, I am at a loss to understand how such an opinion should ever have prevailed; these commandments being evidently nothing more than a summary of the whole Mosaic law as the fourth is of the whole ceremonial law; which therefore can contain nothing applicable to the gospel worship.” Treatise on Christian Doctrine, Vol. 1, Book 2, Chap. 7.

Adapted: Decalogue Examined by Dudley Marvin (Retrieved from: https://www.nonegw.org/canright/sdar18.htm)