Seventh-Day Adventists/Sabbath for all
The Sabbath was given to all people not just the Jews. This can be seen by reading Genesis 2:2-3. It shows the Sabbath was made at Creation before sin and so was for all people. "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Gen. 2:2-3 KJV). Your response please.
Dear Brother Charles:
I have written about Genesis 2:2-3 and the lack of evidence that it refers to a universal establishment of the 7th day Sabbath. The Creation Ordinance Defense used by Sabbatarians is extremely weak and unconvincing. The Sabbath was never given to or required of Gentiles as a people as it was of the Israelites. If a Gentile came under Israelite authority or if he voluntarily wanted to convert and join Israel then, and only then, was he required to observe the Sabbath.
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns" (Exodus 20:8-10 NIV).
Further evidence against the Creation Ordinance Defense is that Gentiles were never condemned for violating the Sabbath. The Old Covenant prophets repeatedly condemned the Gentile nations for their violations of the moral law of God, but never for any Sabbath violations. Are we supposed to believe that they never violated the Sabbath? Or are we to believe that the prophets did not think that the Gentiles' Sabbath violations deserved special mention? The prophets did not treat Israel so leniently. No, they highlighted Israel's violations of the Sabbath.
"Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws—by which the person who obeys them will live—AND they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths...because they rejected my laws and did not follow my decrees AND desecrated my Sabbaths...But the children rebelled against me: They did not follow my decrees, they were not careful to keep my laws, of which I said, 'The person who obeys them will live by them,' AND they desecrated my Sabbaths... because they had not obeyed my laws but had rejected my decrees AND desecrated my Sabbaths..." (Ezekiel 20: 13, 16, 21, 24 NIV emphasis added).
Did the prophets or God have a double standard when it came to the Sabbath? Yes, they did. God gave the Sabbath as the ceremonial sign of His covenant with Israel.
“Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you'... Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’" (Exodus 31:13, 16-17 NKJV; cf. Ezekiel 20:12, 20).
Therefore, the Israelites were responsible to keep the Sabbath. God did not hold the Gentiles responsible for keeping the Sabbath because He never gave it to them. The Gentiles were responsible for keeping the moral law and the Sabbath belongs to the ceremonial laws given to Israel. Therefore, the prophets never mention any Gentile violations of the Sabbath. The Gentiles were never under the Old Covenant Law. They were, however, under the moral law.
"For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them" (Romans 2:12-15 NASB).
Even before the Old Covenant Law was given the Gentiles were condemned for violations of the moral law of God. One such example is the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah (see Genesis 19:1-29). There the Gentiles engaged in various violations of God's moral law. Their chief sin appears to have been homosexuality.
"He urged them so strongly, however, that they turned aside to his place and entered his house. He prepared a banquet for them, baking unleavened bread, and they dined. Before they went to bed, the townsmen of Sodom, both young and old—all the people to the last man—surrounded the house. They called to Lot and said to him, 'Where are the men who came to your house tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have sexual relations with them'" (Genesis 19:3-5 NABRE).
Israel and the Gentiles were under the same moral law. The prophets of God repeatedly condemned the Gentile nations for all manner of sin. God prohibited Israel from following in the sinful ways of Egypt and Canaan.
"The Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Israelites and tell them: I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you once lived, nor shall you do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you; do not conform to their customs. My decrees you shall carry out, and my statutes you shall take care to follow. I, the Lord, am your God. Keep, then, my statutes and decrees, for the person who carries them out will find life through them. I am the Lord" (Leviticus 18:1-5 NABRE).
Then follows a long list of the sexual sins of the Gentiles as well as child sacrifice (vs. 6-23). Finally, God warns Israel and condemns the Gentiles.
"Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, because by them the nations whom I am driving out of your way have defiled themselves. And so the land has become defiled, and I have punished it for its wickedness, and the land has vomited out its inhabitants. You, however, must keep my statutes and decrees, avoiding all these abominations, both the natives and the aliens resident among you— because the previous inhabitants did all these abominations and the land became defiled; otherwise the land will vomit you out also for having defiled it, just as it vomited out the nations before you. For whoever does any of these abominations shall be cut off from the people. Heed my charge, then, not to observe the abominable customs that have been observed before your time, and thus become impure by them. I, the Lord, am your God" (vs. 24-30 NABRE).
The above shows that both Israel and the Gentiles were subject to the same moral law and the same penalty. In the condemnation of the Gentile nations we find the Sabbath conspicuously absent. I realize that every sin of the Gentiles does not need to be listed. However, in view of the great importance SDAs attach to Sabbath-keeping if it were so important we would expect to find at least one mention of its desecration by Gentiles, but we don't.
Why? Four possible explanations present themselves. One: The Sabbath was a moral law, but was not required of Gentiles. Moral laws by definition are required to be kept by all people in all times. Therefore, explanation #1 must be rejected. Two: The Gentiles kept the Sabbath perfectly or at least very well. This explanation is unsatisfying. One must ask if #2 was correct why didn't God hold the Gentiles up to Israel as a great example concerning Sabbath-keeping for them to follow? In another context God did hold up a Gentile as a great example for Israel to follow.
"Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, 'Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.' And Jesus said to him, 'I will come and heal him.' The centurion answered and said, 'Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.' When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'" (Matthew 8:5-12 NKJV).
So explanation #2 must be rejected. Three: The Gentiles did desecrate the Sabbath, but it went unmentioned in Scripture. This explanation is unconvincing. Why wouldn't the prophets have mentioned the Gentiles' violation of the Sabbath? They mentioned many sins of the Gentiles and warned Israel to avoid acting likewise. Certainly if the Gentiles were desecrating the Sabbath, and if it were a moral law, the prophets would have noted this and warned Israel not to follow in their ways. Four: The Gentiles were never required to observe the Sabbath because it was a ceremonial law given to Israel. This is the most convincing of these explanations since it fits well with the biblical evidence that we have concerning the Sabbath.
Let's look at a passage in which God names the major sins of 5 Gentile nations.
"This is what the Lord says:'For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not relent. Because she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth, I will send fire on the house of Hazael that will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad. I will break down the gate of Damascus; I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven and the one who holds the scepter in Beth Eden. The people of Aram will go into exile to Kir,' says the Lord. This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Gaza, even for four, I will not relent. Because she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom, I will send fire on the walls of Gaza that will consume her fortresses. I will destroy the king of Ashdod and the one who holds the scepter in Ashkelon. I will turn my hand against Ekron, till the last of the Philistines are dead,' says the Sovereign Lord. This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Tyre, even for four, I will not relent. Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood, I will send fire on the walls of Tyre that will consume her fortresses.' This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not relent. Because he pursued his brother with a sword and slaughtered the women of the land, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked, I will send fire on Teman that will consume the fortresses of Bozrah.' This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not relent. Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders, I will set fire to the walls of Rabbah that will consume her fortresses amid war cries on the day of battle, amid violent winds on a stormy day. Her king will go into exile, he and his officials together,' says the Lord. This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Moab, even for four, I will not relent. Because he burned to ashes the bones of Edom’s king, I will send fire on Moab that will consume the fortresses of Kerioth. Moab will go down in great tumult amid war cries and the blast of the trumpet. I will destroy her ruler and kill all her officials with him,' says the Lord" (Amos 1:3-2:3 NIV).
Again notice the absence of any mention of Sabbath violations. Why? The answer presents itself: The Sabbath was only given to Israel as a ceremonial sign not a moral law.
Unlike the Gentile nations, Israel was condemned in the strongest terms for its Sabbath violations.
10 Therefore I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11 I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, by which the person who obeys them will live. 12 Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy.
13 “‘Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws—by which the person who obeys them will live—and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the wilderness. 14 But for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 15 Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land I had given them—a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands— 16 because they rejected my laws and did not follow my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths. For their hearts were devoted to their idols. 17 Yet I looked on them with pity and did not destroy them or put an end to them in the wilderness. 18 I said to their children in the wilderness, “Do not follow the statutes of your parents or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols. 19 I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 20 Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”
21 “‘But the children rebelled against me: They did not follow my decrees, they were not careful to keep my laws, of which I said, “The person who obeys them will live by them,” and they desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness. 22 But I withheld my hand, and for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 23 Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the wilderness that I would disperse them among the nations and scatter them through the countries, 24 because they had not obeyed my laws but had rejected my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes lusted after their parents’ idols (Ezekiel 20:10-24 NIV).
In this passage it is said that the Sabbath is a sign between God and Israel twice (vs. 12 & 20) and that Israel desecrated the Sabbath four times (vs. 13, 16, 21, 24). There is no like statement of condemnation concerning any Gentile nation. Why? The answer is simple: The Sabbath was not a sign between God and the Gentile nations nor was it a moral law; therefore, they were not required to observe it as was Israel.
Ezra praised a Gentile king for allowing the free-teaching of the law of God. Yet this teaching evidently did not include Sabbath observance although it did concern worship of God. It did include the temple, the sacrifices, and the offerings, but no mention of the Sabbath. It is strange that it did not include a call for Gentiles to observe the Sabbath. Let's take a detailed look at this passage in Ezra.
11 This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave Ezra the priest, the scribe, expert in the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of His statutes to Israel:
12 Artaxerxes, king of kings,
To Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven:
Perfect peace, and so forth.
13 I issue a decree that all those of the people of Israel and the priests and Levites in my realm, who volunteer to go up to Jerusalem, may go with you. 14 And whereas you are being sent by the king and his seven counselors to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, with regard to the Law of your God which is in your hand; 15 and whereas you are to carry the silver and gold which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem; 16 and whereas all the silver and gold that you may find in all the province of Babylon, along with the freewill offering of the people and the priests, are to be freely offered for the house of their God in Jerusalem— 17 now therefore, be careful to buy with this money bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them on the altar of the house of your God in Jerusalem.
18 And whatever seems good to you and your brethren to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, do it according to the will of your God. 19 Also the articles that are given to you for the service of the house of your God, deliver in full before the God of Jerusalem. 20 And whatever more may be needed for the house of your God, which you may have occasion to provide, pay for it from the king’s treasury.
21 And I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, issue a decree to all the treasurers who are in the region beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, may require of you, let it be done diligently, 22 up to one hundred talents of silver, one hundred kors of wheat, one hundred baths of wine, one hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribed limit. 23 Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it diligently be done for the house of the God of heaven. For why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?
24 Also we inform you that it shall not be lawful to impose tax, tribute, or custom on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, Nethinim, or servants of this house of God. 25 And you, Ezra, according to your God-given wisdom, set magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are in the region beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them. 26 Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily on him, whether it be death, or banishment, or confiscation of goods, or imprisonment.
27 Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem (Ezra 7:11-27 NKJV).
I believe this passage is very important in our study of whether or not the 7th day Sabbath was given to all people or just to Israel. In vs. 12-26 we have a letter from a Gentile king to Ezra an Israelite priest. As we read on we quickly discover that this Gentile king is very open to the teachings of the God of Ezra. Would Ezra the priest, scribe, expert in the commandments of God not teach and promote Sabbath observance to this very open Gentile king if it were a universal requirement? Yet Artraxerxes' kingdom did not observe the Sabbath. Why? Simply because Ezra the priest, scribe, expert in the Law of God (cf. vs. 11, 12) knew that the 7th day Sabbath was given only to Israel to observe; therefore, he did not teach and promote its observance to the Gentile king.
In v. 23 we read that the king was prepared to do anything required of him by the God of Ezra. The king realized that to violate the law of God would bring the wrath of God upon himself and his kingdom. Wouldn't the desecration of the Sabbath bring God's wrath down upon the king and his kingdom? It certainly brought down God's wrath upon Israel in the wilderness. “‘Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws—by which the person who obeys them will live—and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the wilderness" (Ezekiel 20:13 NIV; cf. v. 21). Why didn't God through Ezra teach this Gentile king the importance of Sabbath observance? The king was certainly open to it. The answer is simply because God knew that the Sabbath was a sign of the covenant between Himself and Israel (see Exodus 31 quoted earlier). The king commanded Ezra to teach the law of God in his kingdom (v. 25). The king concluded his letter with, "Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily on him, whether it be death, or banishment, or confiscation of goods, or imprisonment." This king so completely supported the law of God that he demanded speedy judgment on whoever violated it. Yet we do not find any judgment upon Gentiles for Sabbath violations. We do, however, find judgment upon them for violations of the moral law. This indicates that the Sabbath was not a moral law.
I ask you: If you had a person in a position of authority who could influence thousands of people and if he was very open to the teachings of SDAism wouldn't you promote to him the great importance of Sabbath observance for all people? Ezra didn't. Why? The answer is quite simple: Ezra knew that the Sabbath was a ceremonial sign that did not concern the Gentiles. Consequently, there is no sin in Gentiles not observing the Sabbath. God does not make them responsible to observe the Sabbath as He does make them responsible to observe His moral law. "Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem" (v. 27). So God inspired the king to beautify the Temple. Why didn't He inspire the same king to keep and to teach his subjects to keep the Sabbath a supposed moral law? By now the answer should be obvious. The Sabbath was a ceremonial law given by God only to Israel to be a sign of the covenant between Himself and Israel (cf. Exodus 31:13, 16-17; Ezekiel 20:12, 20).
Let's look briefly at another passage that indicates that the Sabbath was a ceremonial sign given only to Israel and was not incumbent upon Gentiles as are moral laws.
15 In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. 16 People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. 17 I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? 18 Didn’t your ancestors do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity on us and on this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”
19 When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. 21 But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15-21 NIV).
This passage begins with Nehemiah noting the people's total disregard of the Sabbath (v. 15). He then focuses on the Gentile influence on the Israelites desecration of the Sabbath (v. 16). Nehemiah next gives a scathing rebuke of the "nobles of Judah" for their desecration of the Sabbath (vs. 17-18). He then relates what he did to prevent this desecration by the "nobles of Judah" (v. 19). Finally, Nehemiah reports that despite his precautions the Gentiles continued to tempt the Israelites to sin (vs. 20-21). Notice Nehemiah's final and successful attempt to stop the Gentile influence on the "nobles of Judah". Does he threaten them with the biblical punishment for Sabbath violations? "I will arrest you," is his seemingly tepid response. Notice that Nehemiah rebuked the "nobles of Judah" while King Artaxerxes although keenly concerned with God's wrath coming against him (see Ezra 7:23) did not rebuke the nobles of his kingdom for Sabbath violations. Why the different responses? Nehemiah was dealing with Israelites who were bound to observe the moral laws as well as all ceremonial laws of Israel including the Sabbath. The king was dealing with Gentiles who were only bound to observe the moral laws and who were never given the Sabbath; therefore, the king was unconcerned with the Sabbath and his Gentile subjects.
We have an interesting incident in Scripture which like the previous passage contains a sabbath violation and prison.
32 Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. 34 They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died (Numbers 15:32-36 NKJV).
Notice that the Sabbath violator was put in prison "under guard". Since the Sabbath was a new institution it was not known what was to be the proper punishment. God said that jail was not the correct punishment. "The man must surely be put to death" (v. 35). In one incident the punishment is prison and in the other the death penalty is issued. Why? In Numbers 15 the offending party is an Israelite; therefore, he was required to observe the Sabbath. A jail sentence was not a appropriate punishment for an Israelite. “For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death" (Exodus 35:2 NASB). No jail option. In Nehemiah 13 the offending party tempting the Israelites to desecrate the Sabbath were Gentiles, "People from Tyre" ( v. 16). Therefore, a jail sentence was an appropriate punishment. Once again the difference between Israelites and Gentiles indicates that the Sabbath was not a moral law required of all, but a ceremonial sign required only of Israel.
"The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations... It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever... Also I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them... Sanctify My sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you..." (Exodus 31:12-13, 17; Ezekiel 20:12, 20 NASB).
One final point to consider: Paul in all his many letters teaching how Christians should live--morally, humbly, and holy--never teaches that Christians should observe the ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant. He never teaches Christians to not shave the corners of their beards (Leviticus 19:27), to never wear clothes made of different a mixture of wool and linen (Deuteronomy 22:11), to never plant different seeds in their gardens (Deuteronomy 22:9), to eat a kosher diet (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14), and he never teaches Christians to observe the ceremonial sign of the Old Covenant, the 7th day Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-13, 16-17).
In fact Paul clearly teaches in Romans 14 that eating only certain foods or keeping only certain days is no longer necessary for God's people.
"One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks" (vs. 5-6 NKJV).
If the Sabbath were a moral law would Paul speak in that manner? What other moral law does Paul say to be fully convinced in one's own mind that one should obey it? Or what other moral law does Paul say that to disobey it is "to the Lord"?
I believe I have given abundant evidence for my belief that the Sabbath was a ceremonial sign of the Old Covenant not a moral law. The Sabbath has never been incumbent upon Gentiles as a whole nor upon Christians at all.
God Be With You,