Before jumping into this topic, it would be well for us to take heed of God’s counsel:
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,” Isaiah 8:20.
- The word “law” is the Hebrew word “Torah,” H8451, and it means a precept or statute, especially the Decalogue or Pentateuch. So the counsel of God is that all “light” must be validated by the Torah and the testimony of His prophets.
Do we see this counsel practiced in the New Testament?
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so,” Acts 17:10-11.
- Paul affirmed the Old Testament scriptures as the test of doctrine. We know this is the OT since there weren’t NT scriptures by this time.
Does salvation through faith do away with the law? What does Paul say?
“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law,” Romans 3:31.
- The word “establish” is the Greek word “histemi,” G2476, and it means abide, appoint, bring, continue, covenant, establish, and hold up. The word “law” is the Greek word “nomos,” G3551, and it means law, specifically of Moses [including the volume]; also of the Gospel. Paul adamantly declares that through faith we continue in all of God’s Word, both the Old and New Testament.
Did Jesus say that He came to do away with the law?
“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. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:17-19.
- Jesus said “Do not think that I’ve come to do away with the Torah or God’s inspired prophets.” The “do not think” is written as a double negative which strengthens the denial, meaning not at all, and in no case. Yet that is what many people do think because He said He came to “fulfil” the law. But consider what the word “fulfil” means. It is the Greek word “pleroo,” G4137, and it means to make replete. The definition of replete is abundantly supplied or provided, filled, stuffed or gorged with food and drink, complete. It also means to verify, satisfy, accomplish, perfect, fully preach, and to level up a hollow.
- To further emphasize His point, Jesus said that not a jot or tittle would pass from the Torah till heaven and earth pass. Have heaven and earth passed?
- Then Jesus says that whoever breaks even one of the least commandments and teaches others so will be called the least in God’s kingdom, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in His kingdom.
Take a look at how Jesus followed up His comments on not destroying the law.
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment,” Matthew 5:21-22.
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart,” Matthew 5:27-28.
“It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery,” Matthew 5:31-32.
- So as a follow up to Jesus’ comment about fulfilling the law, He then went on to talk about the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The spirit of the law doesn’t do away with the letter of the law. Instead it magnifies the law. Murder is still wrong, but now we see that anger without a cause is guilty of murder. Adultery is still wrong, but now we see that lusting even without the act is guilty of adultery. Why? Because sin starts in the heart/mind. Jesus did not do away with the law, He magnified it. “The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable,” Isaiah 42:21.
Now consider another way that Jesus fulfills the law.
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God,” Romans 8:4-8
- The righteousness of the law. The law is righteous! It was not done away with, but through Jesus it is fulfilled in us. We are the hollow that is leveled up!
- Did you notice who it is that isn’t subject to the law of God? It’s the carnally minded person. The spiritually minded person is subject to the law, but it’s fulfilled in them by the Spirit of Christ. Notice verses 9-11. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
What else does the New Testament say about what Christ fulfills?
“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory,” Colossians 1:25-27.
- The Word of God is fulfilled when Christ dwells in us by faith to give us the hope of living a life that brings glory to God. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” Phillipians 4:13.
Is this concept novel to the New Testament? Can we find it in the Old Testament?
“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them,” Ezekiel 36:27.
- There aren’t two ways of salvation. One for the OT people and one for the NT. The plan has always been the same. Paul tells us in Hebrews chapter 11 that Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gedeon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel, and the prophets were all saved by faith in God’s Word.
What is the difference between the new covenant and the old?
“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: 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,” Hebrews 8:7,8,10.
- The fault wasn’t with the law. It was with the people. It’s the same law, but the old covenant relied on the people to keep it. The new covenant relies on God empowering us to keep it. Same law. Different power source.
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” Matthew 22:36-40.
- Here again, “the law and the prophets” is “the Torah and the prophets.”
- Jesus explains that the entire OT can be summarized into two commandments: love God and love people. Why would we want to do away with commandments and statutes that show us in greater detail how to love God and love others?
Consider the Jerusalem counsel where the Disciples had to decide how to instruct new converts to Christianity.
“Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day,” Acts 15:19-21.
- Avoiding the worship of idols is a commandment, but fornication, eating things strangled and blood are statutes. The Disciples were prescribing obedience to a small list of a combination of commandments and statutes. This was the short list, so to speak. This was the list to get them going. Why? Because the Disciple expected the new converts to go to synagogue every Sabbath where “Moses”, the Torah, would be read and they would continue to learn.
- Don’t miss that the Disciples, after Christ’s ascension, were still expecting the gentile believers to attend synagogue every Sabbath day for continued learning.
Are there other examples of NT believers continuing to keep the Sabbath?
“And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath…And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God,” Acts 13:42,44.
- The word “Sabbath,” is the Greek word “sabbaton,” G4521. Eight times in the NT, it is translated as week but only when preceded by a number. So, day one of the Sabbath is translated first day of the week (Sunday). Day two of the Sabbath would be second day of the week (Monday). Every other time (or sixty times in the NT), it is translated “Sabbath,” and always means the seventh day Sabbath. It never refers to Sunday.
But didn’t the Disciples teach that it was the legalists that require us to keep the law?
“Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment,” Acts 15:24.
- That cannot be what was being said here, because they just gave a list in verse 20 of 4 commandments/statutes to begin with when teaching converts. So we must look at the surrounding verses for a clue. Verse 1 says:
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” So when verse 24 says that they were being falsely instructed to keep the law, it was in regards to being circumcised. Also look at verses 7-11.
“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”
In this one chapter of Acts, we are told: Hear the word and believe. Purify hearts by faith. Saved through grace. We’re also told to abstain from idols, from fornication, from things strangled and blood.
- Do these concepts contradict each other? No, they’re in complete harmony, because remember, the law is not the problem. The problem is with us. If we set out to keep the law with a “all that you have said, we will do,” then we are under the old covenant. But, if we hear the word and believe, and invite Jesus into our hearts through His Spirit, then He will empower us to obey the law, and that is the good news of the gospel. Complete salvation from the penalty and power of sin.
Consider this prophecy in Isaiah about salvation for the Jews and Gentiles.
“Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed,” Isaiah 56:1.
- The phrase “do justice” means do rightness and this is linked to salvation.
- The word “salvation” is the Hebrew word “yeshû‛âh” which is the name of God’s Son through whom we receive salvation.
- Psalm 119:155 says, “Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.” The Bible says that our sins separate us from God (Isa 59:2).
- Also notice that when Jesus came, He would reveal God’s righteousness, which He has done in two ways. By living a perfect life of love and obedience to the Father, He revealed the righteousness of the law and God. He also continues to reveal God’s righteousness by living His life in us. “But when it pleased God, who…called me by his grace,…To reveal his Son in me,” Galatians 1:15-16. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” Romans 8:18.
Now see how Isaiah continues in this prophecy.
“Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil,” Isaiah 56:2.
- Isaiah links laying hold on salvation (Jesus) to Sabbath keeping and commandment keeping.
“Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree,” Isaiah 56:3.
- The stranger (Gentile) and eunuch’s were able to be joined to Yahuwah!
“For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant,” Isaiah 56:4.
- Again, taking hold of God’s covenant (the new covenant) was linked to keeping the Sabbath and doing what pleases God (His commandments).
“Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off,” Isaiah 56:5.
- If we take hold of God’s salvation (which includes empowerment to keep His commandment including the Sabbath), He will give us a place in His home! Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
“Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer…” Isaiah 56:6-7.
- One last time, we have this prophecy about salvation to the Gentiles being linked to serving Him, loving His name, being His servant, keeping His Sabbath, and taking hold of His covenant.
Let’s take a look at the Sabbath commandment.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it,” Exodus 20:8-11.
- The seventh day Sabbath is the LORD’s Sabbath. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning 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; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings,” Leviticus 23:1-3.
- The seventh day Sabbath was established at creation in a perfect world and meant to be kept for eternity. God’s way will be accomplished in the earth made new. “ For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD,” Isaiah 66:22-23. So after the time of heaven and earth passing (remember Matthew 5:17-19), and the creation of a new heaven and earth, we will still be worshipping God on His appointed times.
- The seventh day Sabbath is a memorial of creation, and it’s also a memorial of salvation. “Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day,” Deuteronomy 5:12-15.
- Seventh day Sabbath worship, as a memorial of creation and salvation, is also eluded to in Revelation 14:7. “Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. “Heaven, and earth, and the sea” is quoting the Sabbath commandment found in Exodus 20 in honor of creation. There is also evidence to support the idea that the fountains of waters was added to symbolize the second reason for celebrating the Sabbath, our salvation. We are freed from the bondage of sin just as assuredly the Hebrews were freed from Egyptian bondage. Take a look at Revelation 21:6. “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life”
When you read the New Testament, you will discover that Jesus was highly persecuted for supposedly breaking the Sabbath. Yet Jesus never said that He was changing the day of worship. Instead, He said that the Sabbath was made to be a blessing for mankind and that it was good to do good on the Sabbath. The Jews had made the Sabbath a burden with all their manmade traditions, so Jesus unencumbered the day that it might be a delight to all.
“For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works…For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief,” Heb 4:4,8-11.
- It’s interesting that the NT documents disputes about circumcision, but there isn’t any record of one dispute about the Sabbath supposedly being changed. How is that possible? No one had any questions about it? They just changed the 4th commandment and no one had a problem with it? Where were the Pharisees? There’s no record of contention in the NT because the Sabbath wasn’t changed.
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,” Revelation 14:12.
- At the end of time, God will have a people that keep His commandments.
“Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse,” Malachi 4:4-6.
- Before the coming of the Lord, God tells His people to remember His law with the statutes and judgments.