Is it okay to Work on Saturday?

I am continuing to post challenges from some atheists in San Diego.  They say Exodus 35:2 commands us to put others to death for working on the Sabbath.  Their claim is Christians are inconsistent in applying what the Bible clearly teaches.

Do Christians ignore verses we don’t like?  If we ignore them then the charge of inconsistency stands.  Again as in previous posts I have shown these atheists are famous for posting single verses and ignoring the context.  They also show a lack of understanding of the history of the nation of Israel, their relationship with God, and the Mosaic Covenant.

As far as context, it doesn’t take much effort to read verses 1 & 2 to see who this was written for.  Exodus 35:1-2 Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do: 2 “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.”  Who was the audience?  Verse 1 says the sons of Israel.  Gentiles living during this time never had to follow religious commands intended for the nation of Israel only.  Those Israelites who violated this commandment, under the theocracy of God, were to be put to death.

We also need to understand the Mosaic Covenant.  The Mosaic code represented the legal statutes of the Jews under the theocracy of God (He served as their king).  No one living today is under the theocracy of God or bound by this covenant.  However, the Mosaic Covenant may still reflect moral norms (no stealing, murder, etc.) that have application for those outside the nation of Israel.  Citing an obligation in the Mosaic Law (even in the Ten Commandments) is not in itself enough to show we are obligated to it. We are not under the jurisdiction of those laws.

However, we can glean wisdom from them when there are similar situations we face in our own lives.  Mosaic Law helps us understand the character of God.  We are also obliged by any transcendent or universal moral obligations reflected in the Law given to the Jews—not because it’s in the Law, but because it’s transcendent and therefore included in the Law.  On my count, that would include nine of the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath being excepted.  We are no longer under obligation to keep the Sabbath.  This Old Testament law was not reaffirmed in the New Testament.  The transcendent character of nine of the Ten Commandments, except the fourth (Sabbath), are affirmed in the New Testament.

Are Christians inconsistent for not killing others for working on the Sabbath?  Reading this verse in context and understanding the limitations of the Mosaic Covenant help us to understand this law no longer applies.  We are not under a theocracy.  We are not inconsistent.

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Michael September 1, 2018, 1:49 am

    James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.

  • Steve Bruecker September 4, 2018, 6:11 am

    Michael,
    Absolutely! This is why we cannot earn heaven. We are all guilty before a holy God. Only through the cross of Jesus can we experience eternal life. He lived the life we should have lived (kept the law 100%) and died to pay a penalty we couldn’t pay. He is our substitute and by his sacrifice we can be healed.

    Only by trusting Jesus can we be totally forgiven.

    Steve Bruecker

  • David Neely May 8, 2019, 2:20 am

    The Sabbath not affirmed in the New Testament. Really. Mark 2:27 “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” Mark 2:28 “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath”. There are a dozen or more verses affirmeding the ten Commandments, not one leaving out the Sabbath. Isaiah 66:23 says we will keep the Sabbath in the new earth.
    The Sabbath was the only day God made holy Gen 2:3.

  • Steve May 9, 2019, 5:49 am

    David,
    What do those verses you quoted teach? Are they commanding us to keep the Sabbath? Where is the command to keep the Sabbath in the New Testament? If I grant you the Sabbath will be reestablished on the new heaven and new earth, what about a command for today?

    Steve Bruecker

  • David Neely May 16, 2019, 2:24 pm

    Steve,
    What this teaches is that by denying the Sabbath we deny Jesus, since He is Lord of the Sabbath. The new testament shows both Jesus and His followers keeping the Sabbath when they visited the tomb Matt 28:1, Mark16:1, Luke 23:56. The Commandments are still in effect and we are commanded to keep all of them (see Michael from Sept 1). Also see Matt 5:19 ” Whoever breaks one of the least of these Commandments and teaches men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…”. We are told to keep all of the Commandments, including the 4th, the Sabbath.

  • David Neely May 17, 2019, 8:38 pm

    Steve,
    I reread your post of Sept 4 and you say it all there. ” We are all guilty before a holy God.” (and how is that guilt determined, by the Commandments. The Commandments point to sin “…I would not have known sin except through the law”…Romans 7:7… “where there is no law there is no transgression.” Romans 4:15
    He”kept the law 100%” (that includes the 4th commandment, the Sabbath. “He led the life we should have lived” (keep the law 100%, including the Sabbath). I would like to make it clear that I don’t believe the law will save us. Only faith through grace can save us, but Paul is clear “do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”
    Let’s say you were pulled over by a cop (you broke the law / sinned). He said ‘I’m not going to give you a ticket this time (grace), go and sin no more’. Does this mean the law is no longer in effect? I don’t think so. It still applies. All of it.

  • Steve May 23, 2019, 4:19 pm

    David,
    So you are saying because I don’t worship on Saturdays, I am denying Jesus, therefore I am an unbeliever. What scripture can you show me that says to trust Christ you need to observe the Sabbath? Where is Sabbath keeping a condition for salvation? Please provide a New Testament verse.

    My post quoted Exodus where anyone who doesn’t observe the Sabbath should be put to death. For you to be consistent, if the Mosaic Law is still in effect, then you need to call for the execution of billions of people. When are you going to start executing Sabbath breakers?

    None of the passages you alluded to commanded us to keep the Sabbath. In fact, Matthew, Mark, and Luke were under the Old Covenant and not the new. The James 2:10 passage leads into the issue of faith and works. True faith will show a life the resembles Christ. Universal moral laws are still in effect (even before the Mosaic Covenant) and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are to follow those laws. The New Testament helps with identifying what those universal moral laws are. However, you still have not provided a single verse that says those under the new covenant need to observe the Sabbath. Where is that verse?

    Steve

  • Steve May 23, 2019, 4:52 pm

    David,
    Have you read Acts 15 concerning the council at Jerusalem? What you are bringing up is exactly what some of the believing Pharisees were saying. Here are a few quotes from Acts 15. Here we see in the early church, the topic of, do believers have to follow the Mosaic covenant?

    Acts 15:5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” You sure sound like a believing Pharisee. And then Peter stands up to end the controversy…

    Acts 15:6-11 The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 “Now, therefore, why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”

    David, it is as if Peter is saying to you, “Now, therefore, why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”

    As my post pointed out, as followers of Jesus and under the new covenant, we observe the universal moral laws, as prescribed in the New Testament. Worshiping on Saturdays falls under the Mosaic Covenant and is no longer a requirement. It is obsolete.

    Steve

  • David Neely May 27, 2019, 2:43 pm

    Steve,
    You know Steve, the Sabbath wasn’t an issue back then. Jesus kept it, His followers kept it. Aren’t they our example? I believe it is mentioned being kept over 50 times in the new testament without any controversy. There was no discussion about whether it should be kept. It just was.
    So…to answer your question,’ are you an unbeliever if you don’t keep the Sabbath and where’s the verse?’ Jesus said “…If you want to enter life, keep the Commandments” Matt 19:17 . You may ask ‘which Commandments? “You know the Commandments; ‘ Do not commit adultery,’Do not murder’, Do not steal’…” (in other words, the ten Commandments). Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20. “If you love Me, keep My Commandments” John 14:15. “He who has My Commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me… John 14:21 If you keep My Commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Fathers Commandments and abide in His love” John 15:10. I mentioned earlier that All are to be kept, Matt 5:18, Matt 5:19. All includes the 4th, the Sabbath. I don’t know of anywhere in the new testament that does away with the Sabbath. There is nothing about “trusting Christ” but the quotes above say ” If you love Me, keep my Commandments” (All of them, including the Sabbath) …and “a condition for salvation(?)” “If you want to enter life, keep the Commandments.” Matt 19:17. No, the Commandments don’t save us…so does that mean we can go about doing anything we want knowing we will be forgiven. I don’t think so. Jesus has given us laws we are to live by (including the Sabbath). The Sabbath was established at creation, to commemorate God’s creation. God blessed it and made it Holy. It was “made for man” not just for the Jews. He included it in His moral law (the ten Commandments), its the only Commandment that begins with the word “Remember…”, Jesus is “Lord of the Sabbath”! It will be kept ‘in the new earth’. If after seeing all of this evidence, you still deny the Sabbath, then yes, I would say you are an unbeliever.
    How can you say Matthew, Mark and Luke were under the old covenant? Didn’t they follow Jesus, preach the gospel, and die martyrs to the gospel??
    These “universal” moral laws are what I call the ten Commandments. Where you combine them with the Mosaic law, I hold them separate. They were written by God where as the Mosaic laws were written by Moses. The Commandments were kept inside the ark seperate from the Mosaic laws, Ex 25:16, 21 which were kept outside the ark Deut 31:24-26. I believe the ten Commandments are unchangeable where as the Mosaic laws are changeable. That’s why we don’t stone people anymore.
    To wrap up, I believe the Commandments “are holy, righteous and good”, that Jesus wants us to keep them, all of them including the Sabbath, that they are seperate from the Mosaic laws and are unchangeable. I believe I’ve answered your questions. I don’t know what more I can say. You say the Sabbath is obsolete. As you can tell by my post, I disagree.
    I realize it’s difficult to keep the Sabbath in this day and age but people are doing it.
    I would like to thank you for providing a forum where we can discuss and learn how others believe, to see where we may be in error or perhaps show others where they may be in error. I wish for you God’s blessings.
    Sincerely, David Neely

  • Steve June 1, 2019, 11:07 am

    David,
    I too have appreciated the civil discussion. You have been very respectful and your stances are well thought out.

    Just a few points…
    1. The New Covenant was in place until Jesus goes to the cross and then resurrects. We see it officially launched during the preaching of Peter in Acts 2. It is the Old Covenant was in place throughout the life of Jesus. Then at the last supper, he announces the coming of the New Covenant: Luke 22:20 (NASB) And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” No New Covenant until the final sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Hebrews 10:14-18 (NASB) For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, 16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,” He then says, 17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.” 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.” Your examples of Sabbath keeping only applied to the Jews during the Old Covenant.
    2. The Mosaic Law was all laws given by God to Moses, including the 10 commandments. Nowhere in the NT do we see a separation between the 10 commandments and all the other laws given by God. These were written under a theocracy and specifically given to the nation of Israel. Only Jews of that time were under these laws. Exodus 19:5-6 (NIV) “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” God’s laws were written or spoken to the Nation of Israel – These laws did not apply to the Gentiles! They were held accountable to the laws God wrote on their hearts (Rom. 2).
    3. Murder, lying, stealing (and others) were wrong even before the 10 commandments. Cain was held accountable for the murder of Abel because murder was and is a universal law. He was judged by the law written by God on his heart (Rom. 2). Stealing and the rest of the 10 commandments, except the Sabbath, are universal and repeated in the New Testament. There is no command to obey the Sabbath once the New Covenant is in place.
    4. The Mosaic Covenant has ended: Hebrews 8:7-8: For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…vs.12-13 “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” 13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
    5. Last point: You said I know of no commandment in the NT that does away with the Sabbath. I could say, “I know of no commandment in the NT that says that children shouldn’t be put to death for failing to honor their father and mother.” Since the Sabbath is part of the Mosaic Covenant it thus is done away with as Hebrews 8:7-8 states (above). Putting children to death for dishonoring parents was under the theocracy and for the nation of Israel only. It has been done away with and is not repeated in the NT after the New Covenant is established.

    Thanks for a lively discussion,
    Steve

  • David Neely June 10, 2019, 7:43 pm

    Steve,
    Just to be clear, please define the old covenant ( briefly, as described in scripture) and the new covenant ( as described in scripture). Thanks

  • Steve June 17, 2019, 9:57 am

    David,
    Sorry for not posting or getting back to you. I was on vacation.

    The Old Covenant was a conditional or bilateral agreement that God made with the Israelites. The Old Covenant was in effect during the dispensation of the Law. It is “old” in comparison to the New Covenant, promised by Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 31:31, 33) and made effective by the death of the Lord Jesus (Luke 22:20). In the Old Covenant, the Israelites were required to obey God and keep the Law, and in return, He protected and blessed them (Deuteronomy 30:15–18; 1 Samuel 12:14–15). In the New Covenant, things change and God becomes the proactive and unconditional source of salvation and blessing. In the New Covenant, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

    The author of Hebrews details some of the differences between the Old Covenant and the New. The Old Covenant required repeated, daily sacrifices of animals as a reminder of the people’s sin. But “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Under the New Covenant, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (verse 10), ending the need for animal sacrifices. “Where [sins and lawless acts] have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary” (verse 18).

    Under the Old Covenant, only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place where God’s presence dwelt—and that only once a year. But under the New Covenant, Jesus is our High Priest (Hebrews 10:21), “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (verse 19), and we can “draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings” (verse 22).

    Hebrews 8:7-13 (NASB) For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, He says, “BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH; 9 NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD. 10 “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 11 “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM. 12 “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.” 13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

    Steve Bruecker

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