DEAD TO THE LAW
Is The Sabbath Binding on
Maurice A Meredith
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MAURICE A. MEREDITH
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CHURCH OF CHRIST - BELFAST - NORTHERN IRELAND
DEAD TO THE LAW
A few years ago, while working with a church in Missouri, I was called to the bedside of a man whom the doctor said was dying. By the next morning, the man and his wife had become dissatisfied with the doctor's diagnosis and prognosis and decided to send for the man's brother in Ohio who was a specialist. His brother came, rushed him to the hospital and by X ray found the real seat of his trouble. The man is alive today because the specialist went deeper than the first doctor's superficial examination.
Just so with the scriptural investigation regarding what day Christians are to keep. Some say we are to observe Sunday and others say we must keep Saturday. The issue is more basic than just what day we shall keep. The real question is what law are we under? If it be argued that Saturday is the Bible Sabbath, we concede as much. There should be no question about it since the Bible specifically says "the seventh day" (Exod. 20:10). But where in all the New Testament does God bind the Old Testament Law on Christians? Let it be shown that we are under that old Law and we will admit that we are to keep the seventh day.
Old Law inspired of God
Man could never have set forth any set of principles as great as those found in the Old Testament. The writings of the prophets, the Psalms, the book of Job, and the ten commandments were truly great, and arose from some source higher than the ingenuity of man. There is no compendium of principles in Confucianism, Buddhism, or Zoroastrianism; neither is there anything found in all ancient Egypt, Greece, or Rome that will favorably compare with these. The wisdom of the whole ancient world is as naught when placed beside the Old Testament Scripture. But breathes there a soul so dead that he cannot feel the vastly superior drawing power of the sermon on the mount? Even the Decalogue can hardly compare with the keen insight into the needs of man as answered in the teaching of Christ.
In comparing the Old Law with the sermon on the mount, we notice that instead of condemning one who had perpetrated a foul deed, Jesus went behind the deed itself, found the motive in the heart and held up the thought as the father of the deed. The Old Law had said, "Thou shalt not kill." Jesus pointed out that anger was unexpressed murder, and went on to say that expressions of contempt were damning. Again, the Old Law said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." But Christ says, "but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matt. 5:28). Passion must be bridled and lusting must be stopped. When you have done this, you do not have to take people out and stone them to death because you have caught them in the act of adultery.
Christ knew well what Solomon meant, and what present-day psychologists aver, that "as a man thinketh within his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). The Lord founded the entire gospel plan of salvation on this demonstrated principle of controlling a man by bridling his heart. The entire law of Christ is drawn along these lines, and begins with the heart and works outward. This is the reason Christ's law is so superior to the ten commandments, and the rest of that old law.
A Personal Experience
During the Dark Ages, men found it difficult to attain to the high standards of New Testament Christianity. Therefore, they gravitated in a retrogressive manner to the standard of the abrogated law of the Old Testament. Very much of the medieval theology is based on the old law and not the law of Christ. Then they had to find justification for their unlicensed practice, so they found it in an invention of terminology. They designated part of the old law as the "moral" law, and part of it was called the "ceremonial" or "sacrificial" law.
Once, before I had done much preaching. and being the veriest tyro insofar as the gospel ministry was concerned, someone gave me an old Bible in the back of which were some helps. On one page was to be found an arrangement in an attempt to classify the old law into the imagined moral and ceremonial divisions. I set to work to copy this, thinking I had found a real contribution to my Bible knowledge. But imagine my surprise, though, when after copying this I began to comb concordances for the phrases, "moral law" and "ceremonial law;" to find to my consternation they were not even in the Bible.
The great trouble is that people too frequently follow some man's idea, and not the Bible. The idea of dividing the old law into two parts is something added by man, which God has not authorized. Even the leaders of the Seventh Day Adventists and the Seventh Day Church of God admit this, for I have pressed them on the point. These Sabbath-keepers are indebted to Roman Catholicism and to medieval theologians for the fundamental idea of their whole system of teaching. I ask them to prove that this is not true.
The Problem Stated
Those who would have us to observe the Sabbath insist that the "moral" law, or the ten commandments were never done away in Christ, but are binding on Christians today. There are Scriptures aplenty to show that we are no longer under the old law, but these men divert the force by asserting that they refer to the "ceremonial" law, and not to their so-called "moral" law. Hence, it becomes necessary to establish the fact that when inspired men spoke of the law that was abrogated they could have had reference to the decalogue. If it can be shown that an inspired writer of the New Testament ever spoke of the law that was done away and then referred this to the ten commandments this would be conclusive proof that they are done away.
This is precisely what I shall do, since there is conclusive evidence on the point.
To the right of the chart which follows tis article you will find nineteen Scriptures and seventeen statements about the old law. These statements show that we are dead to the law, freed from it, it is the law of sin and of death, and Christ is the end of it, etc. But the Sabbatarian replies, "What law?"
In answering that question, we do not want anyone to take our word, but to find the answer in God's Word. If that Book does not answer it, then it cannot be answered. But that Book does answer it. Turn to Paul's epistle to the Romans, chapter seven, and verse seven; here we read as follows: "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Howbeit, I had not known sin, except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet"
Now, the question is, What law said, "Thou shalt not covet?"
The phrase, "Thou shalt not covet" is found in the Bible five times. The above incidence, and again in Romans 13:9, once in Deut. 7:25, and in both occurrences of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:17; Deut. 5:21). The case is clearly made out then. When writers of the New Testament use the phrase "the law," they refer to the decalogue just as much as to the rest of the old law. `Thou shalt not covet" was the last commandment of the ten, and is forever identified with that law. Whenever any writer of the Bible speaks of the law, he means the law that says, "Thou shalt not covet" as well as all the rest of the old law. Since they say the law is done away, abolished, and we are dead to it, they include the ten commandments. No one can overthrow this reasoning.
"The Law" in Romans
The epistle of the Romans forever breaks the force of any teacher who would bind the old law on Christians. Notice these statements from that book:
"Because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (3:20).
"Ye are not under the law" (6:14).
"Ye also were made dead to the law" (7:4).
"But now we have been freed from the law" (7:6).
"The law of sin and of death" (8:2).
"Christ is the end of the law" (10:4).
Now with these statements before us let us bear in mind that the law Paul speaks of is the ten commandments. For right in the middle of these statements he says, "The law said, Thou shalt not covet." This is the last of the ten commandments. Catholics and Adventists may be in slavery to that old law, but Christians are under a greater law (I Cor. 9:21). It is "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:2). This law makes them free from the Old Law, and under no obligation to it.
Personal experience of Paul
In the individual experience of the Apostle. Paul, he says, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death."' (Rom. 8:2). If it can he determined what law he was under before he became a Christian, it will be no difficult matter to know what law he was describing as being the law of sin and of death. We need not look far to find this. As an Israelite, he was under the old law - ten commandments and all. But in becoming a Christian, he was liberated from the galling yoke of that law: for in union with the Lord Jesus Christ he is under the law of Christ. If one can show that Saul of Tarsus kept only the so-called "ceremonial" law. before he became a Christian, then we can establish the fact that this is what he means when he speaks of the law of sin and of death. Since that cannot be proved, then it is self-evident that that great apostle was not familiar with the nomenclature of medieval theologians and modern Sabbatarians, and spoke of the old law in its entirety.
Simply because we are not under that old law, does not mean that we are free to sin. Not in the least. We are made free from the law that we might be joined to another (Rom. 7:4), just as a woman is released from the law of her husband by his death. and free to be united in marriage to another - to use the analogy that Paul used (Please read Rom. 7:1-6).
Sabbatarians, when pressed with the Scriptures that show our relationship to the old law, will almost always counter with the ludicrous remark that if we are not under the ten commandments, then we are free to murder, lie, etc. I regret to say that the veil of Moses is over their eyes (cf., II Cor. 3:15-18), and they are blind to the fact that Christ has given us a law that far transcends that old law.
One of the key phrases to the writings of Paul is, "in Christ." This is particularly true of the first eight chapters of Romans. The name Jesus Christ appears in Romans seventeen times, and Christ appears twenty-one times. Paul says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." (8:2). This comes right at the conclusion of a dissertation on the law, where he shows its weaknesses and failures. Now let us notice two things he points out of what it means to be in Christ.
Turn to the chart on the end page, and you will see by reading Romans 6:11 that we are dead to sin. On turning to Romans 7:4, you will read where Paul says we are dead to the law. Whatever the word dead means in describing our relationship to sin, it also means in describing our relationship to the law. The same is true with regard to being freed from sin. In Romans 6:18, Paul says we are free from sin. In Romans 7:6, and 8:2, he affirms that we are free from the law.
It is little wonder, then, that he had to take up the objection, and answer the question, "Is the law sin?" (7:7). When you have shown that things are more or less equal with one another, it becomes necessary to state the difference, if there is any. The apostle Paul shows what that difference is in answering the objection (vs. 8-25). He shows that the law was divinely inspired, then lays out the good points, but goes on to show the weakness of the old law and how that sin worked through it to produce all manner of concupiscence, or evil desire. So, you might say that sin worked through the law. The ante-climax to this dissertation is found in these words: `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 requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us" (8:3-4b).
For one to be in Christ means to be dead to the law, and freed from the law. And here we are faced with the inevitable conclusion that whatever it means to be dead and freed from the law is also the position that we occupy in relation to sin. If being free from the law means that we can continue to observe the Sabbath, then being free from sin means that we can continue to sin, with God's permission. If being dead to the law means that we are forbidden to eat meats such as pork, catfish, etc., then being dead to sin means that we can get drunk, lie, steal, and commit adultery.
Being dead to sin means being completely separated from it. Paul's analogy of marriage illustrates it. When a husband is dead, a wife can marry again, and not be an adulteress. Or, we might compare it to a citizen of Russia coming to this country and taking out citizenship. When that is consummated, and he becomes a citizen of the United States, he is dead to the Soviet Union, He owes his allegiance to our country. When one is baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-11) he is "dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus," Now notice the next words: "Let not sin reign in your mortal body" (v.12). This is what it means to be dead to sin, And it also shows us what it means to be dead to the law.
Is it necessary for me to dwell on all the other things predicated of that old law, as set forth in our chart? I hardly think so. The important thing is to point out that all of these seventeen statements about the law are qualified by Paul saying, "The law said, Thou shalt not covet." Just study those statements in the light of that fact.
Lest someone should say that this has not proved that we are not to keep the Sabbath, I should like to adduce proof to show that it was taken away too. This is done in the following language: "Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or Sabbath day" (Col. 2:16). If one will avail himself of the use of a Greek Testament, he will find that the latter phrase reads with the definite article preceding the noun: Out of sixty-three times that the phrase appears in the original Greek, this is the only time it appears with the definite article in the Greek and the indefinite article is used in its translation. In Matthew 28:1, we have precisely an exact parallel with Col. 2:16, in the original. Here it is rendered, "the Sabbath day." Consistency demands the same rendition in Col. 2:16.
The apostle Paul has already given the reason we are to let no one judge us in regard to the Sabbath day, for he said: "God . . hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross" (v. 14b). He has earlier characterised that old law by saying it was "the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us" (v. 14a).
The Sabbath To Cease
Long years before the apostle Paul ever told that the Sabbath was taken out of the way the prophet Hosea had foretold that the Sabbath would be brought to an end. "I will also cause all her mirths to cease, her feasts, her new moons, and her sabbaths" (Hosea 2:11).
The prophet Amos even went so far as to foretell the very day that the Sabbath would end. In fact, he described the day.
The Israelites had been asking him: "When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell grain? and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and dealing falsely with the balances of deceit; that we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes, and sell the refuse of the wheat?" (Amos 8:5-6).
You will notice the Jews wanted the Sabbath to end in order that they could convert the day into one of buying, selling, trading, and even to doing a little cheating.
Take your Bible, read this prophecy, then go down on Main Street any Saturday, and you should be impressed with its fulfilment. The old Jewish Sabbath has become the greatest trades day in all history. Amos prophesied this fact over three thousand years ago. Wondrous Book, the Bible!. No mortal man, unaided., could have so accurately told what would replace the Sabbath.
The inspiration of Amos is further shown when we notice that he foretold what kind of a day it would be like when the Sabbath would be done away. "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord Jehovah, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in a clear day. . . and I will make it as the mourning for an only son, and the end .thereof as a bitter day." (Amos 8:9-10).
There have been many days when the sun has refused to shine from noon onwards, but there was only once in the history of man when such a day was attended by events of such catastrophic proportions as to produce mourning for an only son. When God's only begotten Son and David's Darling perished on Calvary it rocked the earth from center to circumference and drove the nation of Israel into a worldwide lamentation.
Amos said when this day would come that it would mean the Sabbath and the new moon would be gone. In saying that the new moon would be gone, we are to understand that the monthly feast observing the appearance of the new moon would cease. The custom of the Jews was to consecrate every first day after the appearance of the new moon. Hence, to say that the new moon would be gone was tantamount to saying they would no longer keep these feasts each month.
This conforms exactly with the injunction of the apostle Paul, when he said: "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day, or a new moon, or the Sabbath day." (Col. 2:16). The apostle has given as his reason for this, because Christ has "blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross." (Col. 2:14).
Amos prophesied the very thing that Paul has said has come to pass. Even Adventists believe that the feasts of the new moon ceased at the cross of Christ. The prophet said the Sabbath would be gone at the same time. The Sabbath was nailed to the cross just as surely as the body of God's Son. This is the reason why Paul could say, "Ye were made dead to the law through the body of Christ" (Rom. 7:4) When Christ died on the cross. the Sabbath and the old law perished by the same act.
The Temple of the Holy Spirit
Scholars generally agree that the tabernacle was a type of the church. In other words, the church of our Lord is now the temple in which God has recorded His name, and He fills it with His glory. As the Shekinah illuminated the tabernacle in the days of Israel, so the effulgence of His glory now fills "the house of God, which is the church of the living God" (I Tim. 3.15). Paul was speaking of the church when he said, "ye are a temple of God" (I Cor. 3:16), and "a holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit." (Eph. 2:22).
Let us now notice the manner in which the Sabbath was observed in the temple. The Lord said. "on the Sabbath day the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless" (Matt l2:5). This manifestly proves there was no Sabbath in the temple. The priests worked every day alike in the worship of God, and what is true of the type is just as true of the antitype, in that there is no Sabbath in the New Testament church. All Christians are priests of God, through the blood of Christ (cf. Rev. 1:5-6). and should spend all their lives in praising His holy name.
Since there is no Sabbath in the Christian life, the writer of Hebrews could only speak of one as being in the future "There remaineth therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God," (Heb. 4:9) This, we shall gladly do "when our life's work is ended, and we cross the swelling tide."
Christians, then, as priests of the Most High God - who are, in fact, a royal priesthood (cf. I Pet. 2:9), know no difference in days. Every day should be one of joy, praise, thanksgiving, and reverence wherein they come to the throne of grace with the spiritual sacrifices that are theirs to offer. No day is to be set apart as a holy day. The apostle Paul was afraid for his brethren who observed days (cf. Gal. 4:10-11).
There may be two classes who will esteem one day above another. The New Testament shows how some may do this through being weak in the faith (Rom. 14:5). Others may do it as a result of false teaching. With the former, the utmost of patience needs to be shown; but with the latter, the case is different. Error must be exposed. Which of these two classes do you suppose one would be in who has had it pointed out that Sunday is not the Sabbath, but stubbornly persists in calling it that?
How Christ Kept The Sabbath
If we are to observe the Sabbath like Christ and the apostles did, it will be necessary to find a Jewish synagogue in which to do so. Let us also remember that Christ was "born under the law" (Gal. 4:4d). He could not abolish that law without first keeping it perfectly and fulfilling it. The example of Christ, in this instance, does not set a precedent for Christians, any more than his circumcision or keeping the feasts set a precedent.
The apostle Paul also frequently went into the synagogue on the Sabbath. But this was so he could find Jews and teach them the truth. Where do you ever read of his observing Christian worship on the Sabbath? Here are some facts about the Sabbath as mentioned in the New Testament:
1. It is never enjoined upon Christians.
2. It is never mentioned in connection with the worship as conducted by Christians.
3. An assembly of Christians cannot be found in the New Testament observing the Sabbath. It was always an assembly of the Jews.
The First Day of the Week
The first day of the week is not a holy day, as we have already pointed out. However, permit me to subjoin some events about the first day of the week for your serious consideration:
1. Our Lord arose from the grave. Luke 24:1-21
2. Day of Pentecost fell on it. Lev. 23:15-16
3. The Holy Spirit descended. Acts 2:1
4. Church of Christ established . Acts 2:1-47
5. Apostles baptized in Holy Spirit. Acts 2:1-4
6. First gospel sermon preached. Acts 2:1-38
7. Three thousand converted. Acts 2:41
8. Christians kept lord's Supper. Acts 20:7
9. Christians contributed. I Cor. 16:2
10. Called The Lord's Day. Rev. 1:10
Did Constantine Change it?
It is not infrequent to read where some Adventist is blaming Constantine for changing the Sabbath. They think his reason for doing this was because he was a sun-worshipper and Sun-day was a heathen holiday.
There are two errors in their position:
1. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans had weekly holidays.
2. Constantine never changed the day.
Catholics have said they changed it, and Adventists believe them. This is further evidence to show that the superstructure of Adventism is built on Catholicism.
Since they accept Catholic testimony, let us see if they will accept the following statement made by Father Richard Felix, O.S.B., and printed in the magazine, Why, of which he is the editor, for August, 1950: "the apostles changed the Lord's Day from Saturday to Sunday."
Constantine did not change the Sabbath, he simply tried to sabbatize a day Christians were already using for worship. Furthermore, neither Christ nor the apostles changed it. The Sabbath was abolished. The idea of changing it is a figment of fruitful imagination. The Sabbath was one day, and the Lord's Day is something different.
The Verdict of History
History will show that Christians met on the first day of the week a hundred years before the Emperor Constantine was ever born. Barnabas, who may have been the companion of Paul, says: "we observe the eighth day with gladness, in which Jesus rose from the dead" (Epistle of Barnabas, 13:9-10).
Ignatius (died in 120) said the disciples were "no longer observing Sabbath's, but keeping the Lord's Day in which also our life is sprung up by Him." (Epistle to the Magnesians, 3:3.)
Justin Martyr (died in 155) presented an apology to Antonius Pius (emperor from 138-161) in which he said: "On the day called by you Romans, Sunday, all whether dwelling in the towns or in the villages, hold meetings . . . We all commonly hold our assemblies on Sun-day, because it is the first day on which God converted the darkness and matter, and framed the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour, on the same day arose from the dead." (Apology 1.67.)
There are many other witnesses; such as Melito, bishop of Sardis, who wrote a treatise on the Lord's Day in 170; Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, who in 170 wrote a letter to Soter, bishop of Rome, in which he referred to the Lord's Day; Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, in 178, twice referred to the Lord's Day; and the Didache, which was written in about 200, speaks of it as "the Lord's Day of the Lord" (14:1).
Tertullian in 190, wrote: "We have nothing to do with sabbaths, new moons or Jewish festivals, much less with those of the heathen. We have our own solemnities, the Lord's Day, for instance, and Pentecost." And: "Sunday we give to joy." (De Orat. c. 23.)
Clement of Alexandria, in 192, wrote: "A Christian, according to the commandment of the gospel, observes the Lord's day thereby glorifying the Lord." (Book 7, ch. 12.)
There we have nine witnesses - there are others - who testify to Christians meeting on the first day, all of whom were dead before Constantine was born.
Philip Schaff sums up in these words: "The universal and uncontradicted Sunday observance in the second century can only be explained by the fact that it had its roots in apostolic practice. Such observance is the more to be appreciated as it had no support in civil legislation before the age of Constantine, and must have been connected with many inconveniences, considering the lowly social condition of the majority of Christians and their dependence upon their heathen masters and employers." (Church History, Vol. 1, p.478.)
Finally, I would like to say that churches of Christ have nothing to fear from an honest investigation of the Scriptures. We realize that some day we must face the Judge of all the universe. If the things set forth in this tract are not right I do not want to wait until I meet Him to find it out. Any person will be my friend if he will correct me here and now.