Seventh-Day Adventists/Paul and Sabbath
If Paul didn't believe the Sabbath was necessary why did he go to the synagogue and keep the Sabbath?
Dear Brother Matt:
Paul’s attendance at the synagogue on the Sabbath did not mean that he believed Sabbath observance was a necessary practice for Christians anymore then Paul having Timothy circumcised meant he believed it was a necessary practice. It was performed so that Timothy could minister to the Jews.
“Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1-3 ESV).
Since Timothy’s mother was a Jew the Jews considered Timothy a Jew even though he had a Gentile father. Therefore, Timothy being uncircumcised would be a hindrance in his evangelization of the Jews. Likewise Paul went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to evangelize the Jews (as well as any Gentiles who were present). He accomplished two things with his attendance. One, the Jews could not dismiss his declaring Jesus to be the Messiah as being simply the ravings of a law-breaker, and two, he had a captive audience.
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ’” (Acts 17:1-3 ESV).
In accordance with the decision of the Counsel of Jerusalem (see Acts 15:22-29), Paul insisted that the Old Covenant Law, including the Sabbath, not be imposed on Gentiles. If one wanted to observe the Sabbath out of habit or just as a discipline this was acceptable (see Romans 14:5). Paul himself observed Old Covenant Law when it suited his evangelistic purposes (see Acts 21:20-26). When Paul judged it best to exempt himself or others from the Old Covenant Law he had no problem doing so. Paul observed the Law or did not observe the Law based on the particular circumstances in relation to his evangelization efforts.
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV).
Thank you for the excellent question.
God Bless You,