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.