Yesterday I presented the topic Sabbath: God’s gift to humanity. Today we’ll continue unwrapping the complex topic of the sabbath.
I hear it all the time. I don’t need to keep the sabbath since Jesus nailed it to the cross along with the rest of the law. Now unpacking this isn’t easy. It’s actually a pretty complex topic which I don’t expect to totally be able to unwrap in this one post but we’ll do our best :-).
What law are we talking about?
If you start reading the Bible from the beginning in Genesis it won’t take you long before you start bumping into rules, laws, statutes and other such fun stuff. The Jews took all the laws found in the first five books of the Bible (known as the Torah) and distilled down all the rules and laws into 613 difference laws. If you are interested you can see a list of these 613 laws here. They cover all kinds of things in minute detail. I’ll post just the first 10 of the 613 found on the link I just shared…
- To know that G-d exists (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6)
- Not to entertain the idea that there is any god but the Eternal (Ex. 20:3)
- Not to blaspheme (Ex. 22:27; in Christian texts, Ex. 22:28), the penalty for which is death (Lev. 24:16) (negative).
- To hallow G-d’s name (Lev. 22:32)
- Not to profane G-d’s name (Lev . 22:32)
- To know that G-d is One, a complete Unity (Deut. 6:4)
- To love G-d (Deut. 6:5)
- To fear Him reverently (Deut. 6:13; 10:20)
- Not to put the word of G-d to the test (Deut. 6:16) (negative).
- To imitate His good and upright ways (Deut. 28:9)
Now as you look at the level of detail here and realize that there are 613 of these laws… It could be easy to see why the law could quickly turn into a burden and a barrier to a loving relationship with God! Now many of these 613 laws applied directly to the temple (sacrifices and offerings, etc…) so because there is no temple today devout Jews today can’t practice these laws. There are also some laws that only apply to a Israelite theocracy which also doesn’t exist today. For these reasons, devout Jews today will only celebrate 271 of the 613 laws.
Now when we look at the Sabbath, this law is part of the ten commandments found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Jews would consider these ten commandments as the ten great headings under which all the 613 laws are placed. For simplicity’s sake, the only thing you need to know is that all violations of God’s law are covered in these ten commandments. In other words, no sin (rebellious act) we could be guilty of is not covered by one of these ten commandments. So for our purposes, when we speak of laws we aren’t speaking of these 613 commandments or even the 271 commandments but to the ten commandments alone.
What is the Purpose of the Law?
So what is the purpose of these ten commandments (from now on referred to as the law)? Romans 3:19-20 gives us part of the answer.
“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:19-20
Now look especially at the highlighted portions of this text. The law shuts us up, it holds the whole world accountable before God and it gives us the knowledge of what is sin. All three of these things are very important even to new covenant Christians. New covenant christians need to come face to face with their sins and admit that in them there is nothing good. Every single human being needs to know that one day they will have to give an account of what they’ve done with their life. What will be the standard used to measure whether we’ve been led by God or by Satan? The law of course. Finally, the law teaches us what is sin. Of course the temptation for some human beings is to try to then do their best to do what is right and hope in the end that the good outweighs the bad and that God will have mercy on them at the end of their life. This isn’t the gospel it’s salvation by works.
Did Jesus Abolish the Law?
So now we come to the million dollar question, did Jesus abolish the law through his sacrifice on the cross? That will be the topic of my next article, Sabbath: Did Jesus Abolish the Law?