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The Sabbath, a Fleeting Shadow

Benjamin Tovstiga

The subject of the sabbath in the gospel dispensation has been the object of much confusion in the minds of some that call themselves Christians. However, God’s Word brightly illumines the pathway of the just, and God’s children need not remain in darkness concerning this subject.

The fourth commandment, as well as the rest of the ten commandments, were an integral part of the old covenant God made with the children of Israel at Sinai. The old covenant sabbath was fulfilled and displaced by the replacing of that covenant with the glorious new covenant of the Gospel Day. The New Testament has forever removed all burden of observing a physical seventh day of rest.

It is important to establish the fact that the old covenant included the ten commandments. To prove this point, we consult the holy scriptures. Exodus 34:28 reads, “And he [Moses] wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” “And he declared unto you his covenant…even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.” Deut. 4:13. Solomon said, “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 8:21. Verse 9 of the same chapter tells us what was in the ark, and thus specifies what the “covenant” consisted of. “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.” 1 Kings 8:9. These scriptures prove beyond question that the ten commandments constituted an inherent part of the covenant, insomuch that the ten commandments themselves were referred to as that covenant.

This premise that the ten commandments are part of the old covenant is decisive in revealing the fallacy of Adventist thought. Interestingly, Uriah Smith (prominent 19th century Adventist elder) in his book Two Covenants (page 5) states the following: “If the ten commandments constituted the old covenant, then they are forever gone” (Riggle, 66-7). Mr. Smith’s statement spells the very doom of his Adventist doctrine concerning the sabbath. H.M. Riggle in his book The Sabbath and the Lord’s Day writes the following:

The scriptures lead us to the lucid conclusion that the old covenant is no longer, and that the Decalogue, which of course enjoins the keeping of the sabbath, was done away with as a part of that covenant. We shall consider a few texts that show the covenant annulled.

In the eighth chapter of Hebrews, we find the dissolution of the old covenant. After treating both new and old covenants, the scripture states, “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.” Here the destiny of the old covenant is vividly described. This very covenant is the one in which the ten commandments were so inextricably bound. According to the scriptures quoted above, the decay and vanishing away of the covenant most assuredly implies the same for the ten commandments.

Similarly, the book of Galatians presents the two covenants allegorically. Agar represents the old covenant (Galatians 4:24), at the heart of which we find the Decalogue. The commandment to the Galatians is “Cast out the bondwoman.” By casting out the covenant, in obedience to the Word of God, we must surely and unavoidably cast out the observance of the Jewish sabbath.

While the book of Hebrews declares the old covenant invalid, the apostle Paul in writing to the Corinthians declares the Decalogue itself abolished. He speaks of the “ministration of death, written and engraven in stones” (2 Cor. 3:7) and obviously makes reference to the ten commandments. In verse eleven, the apostle continues his discourse of the same when he speaks of “that which is done away.” Then in verse thirteen, he authoritatively states that that which was “written and engraven in stones” (unmistakably the Decalogue), “is abolished”!

Furthermore, in Colossians 2:16-17 the apostle Paul writes, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.” We rejoice over the abundant clarity of the Word of God on this subject!

The apostle here denies the validity of the Adventist’s censure of those who do not observe the seventh day of the week as a day of physical rest. This verse single-handedly refutes the notions of seventh-day observers. Although proof texts can be multiplied, no additional scriptures are needed in order to persuade the children of God that the keeping of the Jewish sabbath in no wise carries over into the Gospel Day.

Proponents of literal sabbath keeping would be ever so quick to reply that in saying, “Let no man judge you in respect of the sabbath days,” the apostle was not referring to the regular weekly sabbath, but to special sabbaths in the Jewish calendar. Thus, they would say, the validity of the weekly sabbath remains unaffected by this scripture. However, this claim is entirely false, as we shall show below.

There is absolutely no proof that the words “sabbath days” do not refer to the weekly sabbath. It is noteworthy that the word “days” is italicized, thus indicating that it was inserted by the translators. However, much more importantly, the Greek word sabbaton, from which the English “sabbath” is translated, is precisely the same word the Bible uses every time it speaks of the weekly sabbath (Canright, 285). In fact, in a Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Greek word for sabbath in Exodus 20:8, where God solemnly declares, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy,” is sabbaton, in the very same form as it appears in Colossians 2:16. (Canright, 284). Now, provided the Adventist assumption concerning this verse were to be correct, what word should the apostle Paul have used if he would have been writing of the weekly sabbath? The answer is that he could have used none other than the word he used–sabbaton (Canright, 285)! Furthermore, there are numerous other scriptures that Adventists would agree are speaking of the weekly sabbath in which sabbaton is rendered “sabbath days” (Canright, 283). Of these, the following references serve as examples: Matthew 12:5, 10; Luke 4:31.

The old covenant, which the scriptures state to be the ten commandments, has been abolished.

Although the Jewish sabbath is no longer, it has been fulfilled in the perfect rest of full salvation. Christians are “not without law to God,” but are under the blessed “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” which infinitely transcends the Decalogue, and governs body, soul, and spirit of the child of God.

Note: The Sabbath and the Lord’s Day, by H.M. Riggle, may be read online at www.churchofgod.net.

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