Following is Part 3 of my journey into the land of the “Law Keepers”. The topic of the post below regards the Sabbath, though the point I was really trying to emphasize was this fact: Where the Law cannot translate into all cultures, the Gospel can. The following was posted on an online mom’s forum to which I subscribe, in an ongoing discourse regarding Torah observance for Christians.
Where “About Law Keepers – Part 1” chronicles my introduction to the concept of Torah observance for Christians, “Law Keepers – Part 2 (What About the Blood?!)” gets to the heart of the matter – If you are a repentant, cleansed-by-the-blood-of-Jesus-Christian and think it is necessary to keep Torah, how do you view yourself positionally with God? If the Word declares you righteous positionally before God, how then are we, as cleansed-by-the-Blood-alive-in-Christ-believers to relate to the Law?
Right up front, I want to make clear that I’m not against Sabbath-keeping. There are many families that keep the Sabbath as a day of rest and it has been a wonderful thing in their lives. The post below was written to those who say that God has commanded the keeping of the Sabbath for everyone, forever. That you are in willful sin if you do not abide by the Sabbath and its rules (peripheral laws).
Here’s another chunk of some things that have been on my heart about the Law . . . . . And again, if you are observant, this is not a personal attack on you or what you are doing. These thoughts are offered here as insight from a non-Torah observant perspective.
“The” Sabbath. I know the quotation marks seem to be in an odd place in that sentence. This has been a particular point of discussion in the Law thread.
My understanding of the law regarding the Sabbath in the OT is that there was a requirement of a specific time period set aside each week, where certain things would/would not and could/could not and should/should not be done. It was a time of rest and a time of undivided time for God. Failing to abide by the Law regarding the Sabbath had a penalty of death.
My understanding of the sabbath in the NT is that it’s meaning shifted from a law-based reality to a concept/principle-based reality. Love trumped Law when Jesus healed on the Sabbath, for example. The New Testament is full of principle-related and Holy Spirit led instruction instead of specific “do this – don’t do that” instruction. And what about Gentiles who became Christians? When all cultures and people groups gained access to God through the Blood of Christ and salvation from sin through Grace, the original Sabbath took on the characteristics of a distinctly Jewish tradition in the spreading light of the Gospel.
Culturally, the Law doesn’t always translate. But the Gospel always does! Where the Law fails, the Gospel succeeds. The Gospel can be taken into any culture and understood. The Ten Commandments can be taken into any culture and be understood. In cultures that have not been exposed to Judaism (think deep dark jungles of Africa type places) they often have a rudimentary version of the Ten Commandments, the Law written on their hearts by their Creator. But the Levitical Law is not there, and it should not it be imposed upon those outside of the tradition of Jewish Heritage.
At an Urbana missions conference my dh had the opportunity to go to years ago, one speaker talked about how many people groups don’t know what bread is. They have no concept of grain and leavening and the making of bread. They don’t know what a sheep is. Culturally they are worlds apart from the things of the Law. They CAN understand Grace and the gift of sacrificial, substitutional death for their sins, however, and the conquering of death through the resurrection and the reconciliation to God through what Jesus did! The Gospel takes RELATIONSHIP with God to a universal level, available to all cultures. Keeping the Gospel connected to Torah observance restricts the Gospel’s availability culturally. The Law says “stay separate from the world”. Grace and the Gospel say “Go out into all the world . . .”!
What about those who are not able to go to church on Sunday, or are not able follow the Torah in the area of the keeping of the Sabbath due to work responsibilities? I used to work second shift for an airline. My typical shift required me to be at work from 2:30pm till 11pm. I was able to go to church on Sunday mornings, but due to my seniority (or lack thereof), for several years my days off were Tuesday-Wednesday, or some other mid-week two day “weekend”. I had my day(s) of rest, though it did not always coincide with the day I was able to worship with other believers. Amazingly enough, I discovered that fellowship with God was not restricted to “set aside” times of worship. Some of my most intimate times with God were out on the ramp or on a jetway waiting for a flight to come in, singing praise and worship songs at the top of my lungs through the noise of jet engines and APUs (auxiliary power units – they’re really loud!).
How do Torah observers handle this? More importantly, does God require that it be “handled”? Should it be that one should quit one’s job to be Torah compliant? There were no allowances made by the company that employed me for “religious scheduling”. If every Christian left jobs that required shift work in order to become Torah compliant, where would the Light and the Salt come from in those workplaces? What about the people we worked with that came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as a direct result of me and other believers being faithful to live out our relationship with a Living God in their presence, being available to love them into the Kingdom? I STILL hear of fruit being borne from the years we were there, and that was over 13 years ago! Again, the Law says, “stay separate from the world”, the Grace and the Gospel say, “Go into all the world . . .”!
The concept of a day of rest still stands, however. God worked six days creating the earth and all of creation and rested on the seventh day. Because He was tired? I think not. He was setting an example for us. Even BEFORE the Law. He designed us physically to need a day of rest! I personally do not think God cares if, in our modern day calender, it’s a Saturday, a Sunday, a Tuesday, or whatever-day! As long as we are setting a day aside for Him. (Colossians 2:16,17)
The point I’m trying to make is this: Christ has made it possible for us to be set apart by the living out of the two commandments He summed up in Matthew 22:36-40. People are not going to be so drawn to God through us because we follow the Torah faithfully . . . . they’re going to be drawn to God because we love Him and find ways to love them faithfully and in ways relevant to THEM! It’s not the observance of the Torah, it’s the demonstration of the redeeming power and love of Jesus Christ through the Fruits of the Spirit that will bring the lost into relationship with Him.
As I researched the issue of the Sabbath, (after writing the post above) I discovered that within the Sabbath-keeping community itself there is division. There are those that observe a simple seventh-day Sabbath (sundown Friday through sundown Saturday). There are those that view Sunday as the NT Sabbath. Then there are those that follow a lunar reckoning of the Sabbath. The first time I became aware of this method was when someone from the mom’s forum recommended this site. Check it out. Check out this section at that site, in particular, addressing a geocentric vs. heliocentric view of the solar system (universe?). No, seriously. So this is one of the “more interesting” sites that mandates lunar reckoning of the Sabbath.
In light of the divisions within the Sabbath-keeping community above, as well as those Christians who do not feel commanded to keep the Sabbath, the following Scriptures come to mind:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it do you still submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? Colossians 2:16-21
Commentators supporting a mandatory Sabbath will make this argument about Colossians 2 . . . The gist of that position is that Paul wasn’t telling the church at Collose to not observe the Law, but to put away the pagan practices of denying themselves any pleasure associated with eating, drinking, etc. in their observances of the biblical Sabbaths and Feasts. Fair enough. Culturally, in this instance, that may be what Paul was saying. (Here comes the big but) BUT, the more encompassing point he was trying to communicate was that it is not by anything we do that earns or maintains our salvation. That is a finished and completed work by Christ at the Cross. Jesus + any other requirement is out of bounds. We must be careful not to lose connection with the Head! If, in your Christian liberty, however, you want to celebrate Feasts and the Sabbath, have at it! Paul said don’t let anyone judge you for that! What I must have good judgement about, however, is recognizing that God’s Law, imposed on the redeemed believer, when we are freed from the Law by the completed work of Christ at the Cross, (I know I keep saying that, but it is central to everything) is also out of bounds.
Here’s an example of where culturally the Law was the issue: Well, um, let’s just say the whole book of Galatians =o). This post is getting long, so let me just hit the high points:
Galatians 2:21 “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”
Galatians 3:1-5 “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? [Paul, now echoing what he was talking about in regard to pagan practices in Colossians talks here regarding the Law] Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”
Galatians 5:1-6 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. [I have to break in here, because this is key: Law keepers believe that though salvation comes through faith in what Jesus did at the cross, they believe that sanctification comes by their keeping of the Law . . . that the Holy Spirit enables them to keep the Law, and that keeping the Law is where their sanctification is attained. Paul says it is by faith, waiting on the Holy Spirit, through which our sanctification comes. We are positionally righteous (verses on that in Part 1) before God. We are painfully aware, however, of our day-to-day challenges with sin this side of eternity. Therefore, we “eagerly await through the Spirit (not by performing the edicts of the Law) the righteousness for which we hope.” How does that come about? On to vs. 6 . . .] “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.“
Then Paul goes on to say to not abuse the freedom we have in Christ, and indulge in the sinful nature, but again calls us to serve one another in love, and states that the ENTIRE Law is summed up in one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Galatians 5:13-21) Then Paul goes to the “internals” as did Jesus, and gives us this:
Galatians 5:21-26 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfullness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature, its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
There is so much in Galatians. Go read it again! Click here for it online.
I need to be done for now. Christ’s completed work at the Cross, the new life purchased for us there, and living submitted to the Holy Spirit all have to be at the center of all that we do. The Gospel will universally translate into any culture (Go out into all the world . . . ). The Law cannot, nor was it ever intended to (requires isolation from the world). New life by Grace alone, though Faith alone, in Christ alone really is an amazing thing!
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Other articles of interest:
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